The Pursuit of Happiness

How many times are we told to do what makes us happy or to seek out happiness in our lives, as if it’s an end goal?

Everywhere I look, magazines, commercials, shows, movies, books, media of all kinds and the culture in general all encourage us to seek our own happiness.  It’s even built into the very foundation of our country within the Declaration of Independence, “life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness.” We live in a time and place, where for many of us, it’s incredibly easy to pursue happiness. We can have anything we want delivered to our home within 2 days, if not 1, thanks to Amazon.  Smart phones allow us access to incredible amounts of information and technology with the swipe of our finger. We can easily travel anywhere we want in the world.  How much of what we own was bought pursuing happiness?  And yet statistics show we are more depressed and unhappy than we’ve ever been before.  Our life expectancy has dropped for the first time in decades. Substance abuse and addiction is rampant and killing more people every day.

If the pursuit of happiness is really what it’s all about why are we so unhappy?

How To Be Perfectly Unhappy – The Oatmeal

As a therapist I deal in emotions all the time.  I work to help my clients identify, understand and feel their emotions. This is challenging work because emotions can be very uncomfortable.  We often seek to distract ourselves from our emotions, particularly the negative ones because the intensity of them can be scary.  I often hear clients express a belief that if they go into their emotions and really let themselves feel the pain, sorrow or fear, it’ll never stop. But the truth I always encourage my clients with, to help them take the step forward into their emotions, is that emotions change and they will not last forever. Just because you feel intense sadness, pain or fear in this moment does not mean you will feel it forever.

Eventually you will move through it and feel something else, maybe something like joy, peace, contentment, interest, curiosity, satisfaction…

This is the problem with the pursuit of happiness; happiness is an emotion and emotions don’t last, emotions change from moment to moment, day to day.

When we base our life’s goal on the pursuit of happiness we set ourselves up for failure and a constant seeking for more; which can create a perfect breeding ground for depression, hopelessness and even substance abuse. “This relationship that once made me feel so happy has now gotten hard so maybe it’s no longer “right” for me because I should be happy.”  “I don’t feel happy in my job anymore so I’m going to quit, again.” “I bought this top last week because it made me happy but now I’m shopping again because that feeling faded even though I’m swimming in credit card debt.”

When happiness is all we pursue, we miss out on so many other rich opportunities in our lives to feel and experience.  How to Be Perfectly Unhappy by Oatmeal is a wonderful little comic strip that describes how our definition of “happy isn’t very good, it’s a monochromatic word used to describe a rich, painful spectrum of human feeling.”  We are meant for more than just happiness, our lives are meant to be full of dynamic, deep, meaningful experiences and emotions.  We are meant to find purpose in our lives and live out that purpose.

Living out our purpose doesn’t always make us happy.  It gives us so much more. Come back next week where we’ll explore the power of purpose.

Reality Check: A Way to Test Your Anxious Thoughts

Anxious Thoughts“How we see it is how it will be.” (Anonymous)
We most often suffer more from what we FEAR than what actually HAPPENS, so it’s important for you to learn how to evaluate what you are thinking. Things always look less fearful when we face them head on vs. running or distracting ourselves into TV, alcohol, food, or work.
Spend some time in your journal with your anxious thoughts, asking yourself these questions:* Continue reading

Our Own Worst Enemy – Self-talk

We are our own worst enemy.  Do you believe that?  After years of studying human development, psychology, working as a therapist & doing my own personal work I’ve come to believe this as truth.  We tend to save our worst, most hateful words for ourselves, not our enemies and then we wonder why we are stressed, anxious, depressed & isolated.

Think about it…whose voice do you hear in your ear when you make a mistake at work, “screwing up again”?  Who is it that beats you up when you don’t like what you see in the mirror “you’ve got to lose weight & stop being lazy”?  What do you say to yourself when you’re not able to live up to the impossible standards you’ve set for yourself “I really should get it together”?  The words we use within our own minds, our self-talk, matters a great deal more than we give it credit.  Our words have meaning. Continue reading

Andrew Solomon: Depression, The Secret We Share

“The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality, and it was vitality that seemed to seep away from me in that moment.”

This is a moving and brilliant conversation about depression and it’s effects on the human spirit.  It’s is an illness, like any other, that impacts all areas of one’s life and ability to function.  It’s not merely just sadness or a bad day but an unrelenting dark cloud that drains away one’s ability to engage fully in their life.  Let’s work together to remove the stigma that prevents so many from asking for help!

[ted id=1894]

“The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality”

If you think you or someone you know may be struggling with depression, please know you are not alone and we want to help!  Check out our Depression Test to see if you or your loved one may be struggling with symptoms of depression.

Living A Masquerade – Hiding Your True Self

Scarecrows

Michael & I dressed as scarecrows last year

Here is a blog I wrote for Polish: Refining the Details, a summary of my presentation on living a Masquerade…

Growing up I always loved Halloween, I loved scary movies, haunted houses, trick or treating and especially dressing up. I would agonize over my costume every year wanting to have a great one. I still love Halloween and dressing up to go to a costume or masquerade party. There is something very liberating about hiding your true self & pretending to be someone else, rather than who you or who others believe you “should be”.
One mask-maker in California, Carla Almanza-de Quant says “Once you put on a mask you’re cheerful, you’re playful, you’re a more wonderful you,” she says “You become a fantasy character and you interact with others in a more outgoing way.”

What does that look like on a daily basis? What’s the mask or masks you wear when you are hiding your true self from others? Continue reading

Shame – A Brene Brown TED Talk

Shame is powerful player in our mental health and well being.  In this video, Brene Brown talks about how “vulnerability is not weakness” and how shame only holds us back.  It takes a tremendous amount of courage to be genuine and vulnerable. Continue reading