Happiness: Looking in the Wrong Places

Everyone wants to be happy. Sadly, many people are going in the opposite direction. Depression in the United States is 10 times greater than it was in the 1960s. Median age then for the onset of the first bout of depression was 29.5. Today, it’s 14.5. Statistics are similar in other developed countries. China and India, the fastest growing economies in the world, are experiencing psychological repercussions from job demands, high stress, materialism and the Westernization of culture.

It would take 5 more planets to support everyone on earth if all lived as Americans do. Yet the USA ranks #15 in the most recent World Happiness Report. Happiness is not found in material things and pleasurable experiences though that is where many mistakenly seek it. Those pursuits can distance us from the internal source of true happiness and be the cause of stress and addiction.

Excerpt from Make the Best of the Rest of Your LifeIn the United States, people are working harder and longer, have more possessions and prosperity than ever before but are no happier than people were in the 1950s. In fact, divorce, abuse, crime, and suicide rates have escalated significantly. Consumerism may actually be a deterrent to real happiness. According to therapist Sherry Cardinal: “A number one stressor for Americans is consumer related pressure. Striving after bigger, newer and better while going deeper and longer in debt keeps us fearful and awake nights.” And Hope College psychologist David G. Myers, PhD wrote in the American Psychologist: “Compared with their grandparents, today’s young adults have grown up with much more affluence, slightly less happiness and much greater risk of depression and assorted social pathology. Our becoming much better off over the last four decades has not been accompanied by one iota of increased subjective well-being.”

Pleasure and Happiness Defined

 PLEASURE = transitory sensory experiences: food, excitement, temporary gratification. Pleasure comes from outside in. 
 HAPPINESS = consistent, contented state of mind, inner peace, general sense of well-being. Happiness comes from inside out. 

Happiness is a state of being not having. 
It depends on how you react to what happens not what happens.

Pleasure vs. Happiness Test

Enjoy a pleasurable experience – treat yourself to a favorite food or massage, buy yourself a small present. Note how long the pleasurable sensations last.

A sure way to experience happiness is by extending kindness. Go out of your way to brighten a person’s day or offer a helping hand. Note the feelings that come from that and how long they last.

How happy are you? Take the test at Authentic Happiness

Words to Ponder

“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”  Jim Carrey

31 Ways to Light Up Your Days

Shine a light on your life and relationships by focusing on one positive action a day.  These 31 simple practices can change your mind, your mood and your life.

1. Before getting out of bed, focus on thoughts and feelings of gratitude.
2. Before getting out of bed, set your intention(s) for the day.
3. Meditate. 5 minutes of deep breathing, 10 minutes of silence.
4. 3EX – Exercise, Express enthusiasm, Extend compassion.
5. Go for a leisurely walk.
6. For everything you think, do and say, ask “What’s my purpose?”
7. Smile at everyone today!
8. Do a little housecleaning: throw something out or give it away.
9. Ask someone older than you for a piece of life advice.
10. Ask someone under the age of 10 for a piece of life advice.
11. Be thankful for everyone and everything.
12. Share some humor and laughter.
13. Forgive someone.
14. Buy yourself a small gift.
15. Buy someone else a small gift.
16. Be a little kinder.
17. Be a little more patient.
18. Be a little more courteous.
19. Be a little more open-minded.
20. Be a little more daring.
21. Be a little less judgmental.
22. Be a little less anxious.
23. Be a little less self-critical.
24. Be a little less defensive.
25. Be a little less self-centered.
26. Pay attention to your words.
27. Pay attention to what others say.
28. Pay attention to your body.
29. Pay attention to what you eat.
30. Pay attention to your inner voice.
31. Go beyond your comfort zone.

How to Make Meaningful Connections

What do positive relationships, personal happiness and success on social media have in common? 

They all depend on extending one’s self, connecting, being kind, altruistic. The goal: to be liked. If you don’t like me, I’ll think there is something wrong with me, that I’m unworthy. Is there anything more emotionally painful than rejection, being unwanted, disliked, left out?

I think I want people to like me but I really want to like myself, to believe I am worthy.  

We crave a sense of worthiness, value, importance. Why? Because our self-image is so fragile. It needs constant bolstering. We fall in love with people who will do that. They fulfill us; literally fill us full. They meet our mental, physical and emotional needs, fill up the empty places. On our own, we feel lacking, insufficient, incomplete.

People love others not for who they are but for how they make them feel. Irwin Federman

All we know for certain about other people is how they make us feel and what we think about them. Actually no one makes us feel anything. The most others can do is resonate emotions or thoughts already within us.

Whoever arouses good feelings in us, we like.
Whoever arouses negative feelings, we don’t like. 

It is the same with things. We like clothes, jewelry, cars, movies, places that make us feel good. Our behavior and actions are designed to produce the same results. If I do  xyz, I must be a good person; I will like myself, I’ll feel good. If my actions win the approval of others, I’ll feel even better. In fact, their approval may resonate such good feelings that I devote more and more effort to earning it.

Whether receiving a Like/Share on Facebook or Retweet/Favorite on Twitter, we’re getting the recognition, approval we all want. It is a reward in itself. But let’s be honest, there is an ulterior motive for everything we do on social media. We want power, success, value or we hope to sell products, books, seminars, information.

There is nothing wrong with that. Recognition and approval fulfill  emotional and psychological needs. Without them, we fall prey to mental illness and destructive behavior. But we need to be honest with ourselves and about our motives. Only then can we be real and truly connect with others.

Awareness of our own feelings, needs and motivations helps us understand and attune to the needs of others.

Depression comes from self-absorption. To the degree that our focus of interest narrows to self and excludes others, we become smaller, less alive, unhappy.  Social media offers the opportunity to grow personally, interpersonally and commercially. It can turn selling from “I win, you lose” to a win-win situation. It forces us to think about others and their needs. It makes us take a risk, reach out, extend ourselves. We expand through interaction with others. We learn and grow, discover and test the fabric of our being. We build self-esteem. We like ourselves!

The more we like ourselves, the less we depend on others to like us.
The more we like ourselves, the less self-centered we are.
The more we like ourselves, the more capable we are of liking others.
The more we like ourselves, the more we want to extend ourselves, share, connect. 
The more we like ourselves, the more we are willing to be vulnerable.

Only by being vulnerable, can we have meaningful connections with others.

MEANINGFUL CONNECTION REQUIRES

1. Openness and honesty. If you haven’t already seen Brené Brown’s Ted Talk on vulnerability, go to http://tinyurl.com/oc4brbl. If you have seen it, watch it again.

2. Self-awareness. Look in before you look out. Where are you coming from? What is your goal?

3. Being receptive and non-defensive. Where there is conflict, focus on being tolerant and open-minded.

4. Laughter. It dispels negativity and creates a bond between people. http://tinyurl.com/nebv5f6

Self-esteem, self-worth must by definition come from self. Only when we have them can our connections with others be real and meaningful, not based on need.