Relationship column: The search for happiness
We don’t usually examine how we could be happier. We tend to look at how we can experience more pleasure.
So we lust for a nicer car, a bigger home, flashier jewelry, more fashionable clothes, more entertainment, a bigger TV and more expensive toys, to name a few.
If you were willing to pay close attention to how all of this makes you feel, then you may notice that you spend endless hours pursuing goals or paying for dreams that only wind up bringing you short-lived fleeting pleasure. After a while, you get used to wearing the fancier clothes or driving the nicer car, and then you yearn after something else, something additional or novel that will fulfill you and make you feel more complete. Or, you wind up working more and more at a job you may not enjoy in order to pay for all these pleasures, which of course can conversely make you very unhappy.
Our ‘Right’ To Unhappiness
We are so attached to running around this gerbil wheel that we defend our “right” to be unhappy, frustrated and chronically unfulfilled. Be happy before I lose weight? Feel better before I find — or create — the relationship I want? Be content before I make more money? Feel fulfilled before my kid straightens up? Are you crazy? Why would I want to feel good before I get my life better?
Find Your Happy
The following is a set of questions for you to consider — and suggestions about how you could reasonably get off this gerbil wheel, and give yourself the opportunity to find a greater sense of happiness, contentment and peace of mind:
When we focus on what we have, on what we’re grateful or appreciative of in our lives, we’re happier. When we focus on what we don’t have, we’re not. The choice, then, seems obvious: to put our attention on what we have, what we feel gratitude about and what we’re striving for, and to cease focusing on the hurts, the failures and the various bummers that we occasionally experience.
What’s good about your life right now? In which ways are you actually living the dream?
What makes you joyous? Think long and hard on this question. Your answers may not be what you think they are.
How could you add more fun to your life? Could you define what things are fun for you?
What new things might you add to your life that would be interesting and challenging?
Are you doing anything to be self-destructive — or are you sabotaging any of your long range goals? Are you frittering away too much of your time? If so, then what would assist you in changing these behaviors? If you don’t change these dynamics, then you will have regrets about this later on.
Find Purpose in Life
What gives you a sense of purpose — personally and professionally? Finding purpose in what you’re doing is one of the keys to feeling content with your life. To find a greater sense of purpose, make a list of everything you would like to accomplish or experience before you die, and then create a plan for how to make those goals come true.
What gives you a feeling of thankfulness and gratitude? What people, achievements, experiences, relationships or events are you the most appreciative of or grateful for?
Next week: more suggestions on creating happiness and greater peace of mind.
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. His column is in its 23rd year of publication and is syndicated around the world. You can reach him at 303-758-8777, or email him through his website: http://www.heartrelationships.com. His book “Love, Sex and Staying Warm: Keeping the Flame Alive” is scheduled to be published mid-July.
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