By David Joel Miller.
There are lots of articles on the net and lots of blog posts about depression and anxiety, but not much being written these days about being happy. We can’t blame those people who are focused on their depression or anxiety for this state of affairs.
If you ask people what makes them happy, many people can’t answer that question. Most people have never even thought about what might make them happy. In therapy sessions, I often ask people to describe some basic emotions, things like happy, sad, afraid or mad. Most people in crisis can’t tell what makes them feel the way they do. They just know then are in pain and turmoil.
When I ask them what would make them happy, they often sit and look at me for a long time without an answer. The question stumps them. They have never considered just what it would take to make them happy. Usually, the pain is so acute that just ending the pain is all they can think about.
Loss of pleasure is one of the symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder, that I know. Yes, sure, in my practice I work with many people who are so depressed or anxious that they can’t even think about happiness just now. What surprises me the most is that most of them have never stopped to think about what it would take to make them happy. Many times they are not even sure they should be happy. What would you say if I asked you that question? Do you deserve to be happy?
There are those people who hold the religious view that the time on earth is a trial and they expect to suffer. They tell me they expect to suffer. Unfortunately, they frequently mean that the want everyone else to suffer. I see their kids in therapy after the kid has given up on life and wants to die. Please if suffering makes you happy try to do it in a joyous manner and let those around you have the happy life they deserve.
Now I know there are lots of challenges in this world. There are families that live in poverty. There are single parents struggling to provide for their families on one low paying income. Families have sick children. Sometimes one or both parents are ill. Sometimes awful things happen to these people. Some people suffer horrifically.
The surprise here is that sometimes in two houses, side by side, both undergoing hardships, one family is happy and the other is miserable. Why?
How is it that some people can go through life’s trials and still values their existence while another person will suffer terribly?
One major difference between those who walk through a trial and continue to be happy and those who are overwhelmed is the mental attitude they have. I know that this is so easy to say and so very hard to do. Fortunately, there are people who are willing to help you change your view of the world if you are willing to change. I am not just talking about professional counselors and therapist here, though that is their job in my opinion. There are also self-help groups, books and support systems of friends. The key is to be willing to give up our attachment to suffering and to embrace the idea that it is possible to have a happy life.
There are at least three things that can move you towards a happy life.
1. Give up the notion that you need to suffer and embrace the idea that it is possible for you to be happy and that you deserve this happiness not because of what you do or have but simply because you are the one unique you. Embrace the quest for a happy life. A happy life is not all about pleasure. Drugs and things are not likely to make you happy.
2. Change your thinking. Most of us have a whole pack of must’s, should’s and have-to’s that we hold onto. Being able to let go of things and move on is critical.
3. Nurture your resilience, that ability to bounce back. This is a real life. It has its ups and downs. I can guarantee that things will happen to you that you will not like. But then if you keep on track those good things will happen also. So if you keep looking at the failures you will grow them. Learn from life’s trials but grow from them also.
You and I both know that if you are down right now all this is hard to do. When you lose your job, end a relationship, become homeless or are struggling with sickness it is easy to get down and depressed. It is easy to get into fear and worry. Look for help. Find someone that you can talk to that will understand and support you.
In future blog posts, I want to talk to you about all these issues and many more. As our country struggles with a great economic illness we seem to have neglected the mental and emotional health of our people. Do all you can to fight mental and emotional illness by carving out all the happy life you can. And share that happiness. Happiness shared is not diminished it is multiplied.
Till next time. Wishing you the happy life you deserve.
For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog, there is also a Facebook authors page, in its infancy, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the books, trainings and classes category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. Thanks to all who read this blog.