Q. So is happiness really all that’s is cracked up to be? It seems so much emphasis is put on being happy that it sets people up to believe we should feel that all the time. I’m not happy all the time and I think that is normal. What do you think?
A. Well Andrea I agree with you; it is not normal to be happy all the time or to strive to be happy all the time!
According to Dr. Russ Harris, author of The Happiness Trap – stop struggling, start living; the more we try to find happiness, the more we suffer. We are so busy chasing the feeling of happiness we forget to live in the now. Maybe we are happy now but how would we know it if our energy is spent searching for it. What does happiness look like?
Dr. Harris defines happiness in the following two ways:
1. Happiness usually refers to a feeling: a sense of pleasure, gladness or gratification. We all enjoy happy feelings so no surprise that we chase them. But feelings of happiness don’t last. In fact the harder we pursue pleasurable feelings, the more we are likely to suffer from anxiety and depression.
For example: Ricky (name change) was a cocaine addict. He described how amazing he felt the first time he snorted cocaine. “It was over the top euphoric, I felt so good.” He continued using cocaine for a long time. One day he said, “I don’t know why I keep doing cocaine, I have never felt that amazing experience again, but I keep hoping I will.”
2. Happiness is having a rich, full and meaningful life — a powerful sense of vitality. This is not some floating feeling. It is a profound sense of a life well lived. And although such a life will undoubtedly give us many pleasurable feelings, it will also give us uncomfortable ones, such as sadness, fear and anger. This is only to be expected. If we live a full life, we will feel the full range of human emotions.
For example: Brittany (name change) occasionally had bouts of depression that made he go to bed and pull the covers over her head. She called one day and said, “I need to make an appointment, I have been in bed for three days and need help.” I asked if she showered,got dressed and ate breakfast, she said yes. When she came in I told her sometimes we experience days when we do not want to get out of bed. Sometimes we have symptoms of depression and we need to reach out for help, which she did. (It is true that depression can become very serious without intervention). Sometimes we just have to call it what it is and use various coping skills to lift it and find comfort.
Beware of Destination Addiction — a preoccupation with the idea that happiness is in the next place, the next job, and with the next partner. Until you give up the idea that happiness is somewhere else, it will never be where you are.
Vicki L Mayfield, M.Ed., R.N., LMFT Marriage and Family Therapy Oklahoma City
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