Our society has a preoccupation with happiness, so much so that we appear to be frenzied about it. We are constantly jumping through happy hoops, like going shopping and binging on Twinkies, so why is it that we notice that we aren’t…well…feeling all that happy before the Twinkie even digests? We seem to think that being happy is a birthright, and of course the pursuit of happiness is our right, but pursuing it, and getting it, often have two distinctly different outcomes.
Research has shown that quick happy fixes do calm us down for a few minutes, but in the long run these fixes tend to make us miserable. The Loss of Sadness : How Psychiatry Transformed Normal Sorrow into Depressive Disorder , a book penned by Jerome Wakefield and Allan Horwitz, claim that our preoccupation with happiness has come at the cost of sadness.
Our belief that we aren’t ever suppose to feel down, or sad, has caused a firestorm of legal drug use, where anti-depressants are being handed out like candy, and where many people think drug use is normal. It has become common for drug use to take the place of working through sadness, anxiety and depression. No one ever seems to mention the long term effects of drug activity, they only seem interested in the here and now.
That is not to say that there isn’t a time and a place for modern drug intervention, but it is not the “happy” pill everybody thinks it is. Our happiness perspective lies in having realistic expectations of our society, our spouses, our friends and life in general. Life is a mixture of all emotions, the good, the bad and the ugly. No matter how fun the party was last night, it can’t last forever. You have to go back to work. You have to clean the toilet and the refrigerator.
The definition of happiness that is agreed upon by Neuroscientists is this: happiness isn’t about a constant frenzied feeling of joy, but about a feeling of consistent, overall satisfaction and feelings of contentment. This includes living a life that you consider to be meaningful, making wise use of time and having relationships that are stable. A happy life, in other words, might be something a young person would call “boring!”
Most researchers now agree that if you place your expectations of happiness on any one individual that you will be disappointed. It places an unfair burden on your spouse, friends and loved ones. Our happiness is our own responsibility, so learning what constitutes happiness is an educational must. The first thing to understand is that happiness is relative. Since we are individuals, we each experience each kind of emotion a little differently. For instance:
* Some people are more interested in *status* than other people. In other words,
* Some people care what other people think, so the key is to
* Choose your peer group wisely
* If you choose to hang out with the rich elite, and you care what they think, your level of satisfaction will plummet.
* If you choose to hang out with the middle class (and you are middle class), you will more likely find satisfaction. I think you get my point.
The second thing to understand is that happiness isn’t something that happens to you. You either choose to be happy or you choose not to be happy. More things are under the umbrella of your control than you imagine. It is important to realize that:
* Getting the boat you’ve been coveting isn’t going to buy you any long term happiness because soon you will be wishing for something else, so happiness is always just a step ahead of you.
* If you don’t know pain, you can’t know real happiness because it is the contrast that makes the other more evident.
* Money only buys happiness up to the point where you are stable and comfortable, above that you are back to square one, unless:
* You are generous, because generosity does seem to boost the brain chemical dopamine, which is the pleasure hormone. Dopamine feels like happiness, so run with it!
It appears that goal oriented people are happier, so long as they are chasing the goal, but once the goal is achieved it is time to make a new goal. We are happiest when we have something to anticipate and look forward to.
* Keep in mind that a full range of emotion is what makes life meaningful. Learn to fully experience joy as well as pain. Let each emotion be felt deeply.
*What is your belief system? What are your values? It appears that when we live them, life has more meaning, feels more stable and brings us more joy.
* Learn to love yourself for who you are. Some people are more prone to “happiness,” in other words some people are born with a brighter outlook on life, and some people have to work at it. Whatever “happiness” personality you have is okay. Learn to live comfortably in the moment, and be happy for who you are.
It is true that people don’t “make” us happy, but it is also true that making strong personal relationships a priority is probably the thing which will give you the best opportunity for short and long term feelings of happiness. There is nothing quite like the feeling that someone has your back, and that they are there for you no matter what.
Other tips for improving feelings of well-being and happiness are:
* Getting regular bouts of sunshine
* Exercise of your choice
* Eating a diet which is both healthful, but enjoyable.
* Learning to control the tongue. Going off on somebody might give short-term feelings of satisfaction, but in the long run you will feel better about yourself if you control the temptation to criticize. Words do damage relationships, and even though you can apologize, you can’t ever fully undo the damage of a sharp tongue.
I am a person who can verbalize very well, and I have learned by experience that hurting someone verbally turns around on you, and hurts you too. I still feel sorrow for some of the careless words I have spoken to those I love.
* Do something nice for someone, even a stranger or a neighbor regularly
* De-clutter the house occasionally, it will help the inside of you feel uncluttered too
* Share your feelings (but never in a hurtful way), and allow others to have a safe place to share theirs.
* Make yourself look nice regularly. If you wear make-up, wear it just for yourself.
* Find reasons to laugh, and I mean really laugh on a regular basis ( this does not mean mocking or gossip of other people, as this is in the same category as having a sharp and evil tongue)
Physical exhaustion, feelings of sadness, boredom, worry, anger, stress and mental strain are all part of being human, but so is love, joy, faith, hope, happiness, elation and feelings of contentment. These are the array of emotions which make us who we are, and we can’t become the person we are meant to be without the full range of all of these.
Taking Prozac (i.e any anti-depressant) for any of the above negative emotions, may help you today, but tomorrow it might:
* Last only as long as the drug is taken, once you go off your mental issue comes back and you will need to learn coping skills from that point forward.
* Brain chemicals can be temporarily adjusted, but not permanently fixed
* Sexual problems
* Digestive problems
And this is just to name a few!
*I am not a doctor, you need to seek his guidance in order to determine whether the risk of antidepressants outweigh the benefits. I am not speaking above about serious mental disorders, but rather the range of emotions which are normal for all human beings.