Anat’s Theory of Happiness posits that barring chemical imbalances in your brain, you are in control of your own happiness, and that we are taught from a young age to be miserable, and that being happy is somehow… almost wrong.
Please note that the theory below is my own opinions and conjectures. I don’t have a degree in Psych and I’m not social expert. However, I stand behind my opinions. My theory is build out of many concepts and aspects, so today’s I’ll just touch on one.
I’ve struggled with low self esteem and depression my whole life. I’ve come a long way from where I was, and each day I try to take another step in the right direction: Happiness.
The ‘If-Then’ Destroyer of Happiness
What is happiness? Happiness is a sense of satisfaction and self worth, but it is not a destination. You know the saying ‘happiness is a journey’? Yeah, I believe that strongly. I believe that if you cannot learn to be happy NOW doing whatever it is you’re doing, you’ll never be happy, ever. Nothing in life is perfect, and you’ll always ALWAYS have bad things and things you still want in life and things that persist in eluding you. However, if you hook this concept of happiness of those far away things, you’ll probably never be happy.
If you have a statement in your head saying something like “IF I had more money, THEN I’d be happy, but I’m miserable now.” You’ll never be happy. How much is “more money”? How big does your home need to be for happiness? How many friends? How many cars? There’s no right measure for these things.
I find the ‘If-Then’ happiness statement so damaging. Why would you give someone or something else control over your own happiness? The harsh truth is that no one else but you cares about your own happiness. If you’re still living with your parents, then well, let’s hope they care, but in general, even your friends are struggling with their own troubles and in the end will and should choose their own lives over your happiness.
Give yourself control of your own happiness, not attached to anything but those moments of beauty in life that you choose to embrace. A cup of tea, a good book, hanging out with friends, trying to run that extra mile, your imagination, that special somebody’s affections. Chase that better job, chase that dream! But know that you’ll be happy in different ways should those goals fail or change or become something else entirely. Make the good things far more important than the negative, and use the positive energy to advance, not the negative.
Some people might argue that keeping yourself dissatisfied with our current situation urges us forward to advance. You want to tell me that when you hang out with friends or enjoy a quite evening, you someone become less of a person? That someone this subverts your efforts day to day? To say the above would be like saying that staying hungry will make you cook better meals. Firstly, since you’re trying to stay hungry you’ll never eat those potentially tasty meals, and second, we all know that cooking while hungry just messes you up. So why would you push yourself while miserable instead of staying full of happiness?
It is proven that positive reinforcement is far more effective than punishments. Rewarding yourself after doing something good will make you far more motivated to succeed than punishing yourself after doing something bad. If you fear failure, then you won’t want to try new things. If you accept failure because you know you’ll be ok either way creates a much more powerful motivator.
You only have one life, shouldn’t it be spent smiling? Even if life is rough, which it almost always is, keep being positive and smiling. It’s a tough thing to do, and it’s ok to get frustrated and feel down, but always keep a perspective, and make sure to remember to be happy, now matter how little you have.
It gets even more complicated when we hang our very self worth on those If-Thens in our head; ‘if I get paid more at work then I’m worth more as a person.’ or ‘if I work a simple job it makes me a simple person’. I won’t get into why I think Western society is so broken in many of these aspects, but this is another example of allowing an outside source to dictate one of your elements of happiness, self worth. I’ll probably come back to this in a later post.
How can you understand your own self worth other than through the mirror of others?
What I mean here is that part of knowing who you are is looking through the eyes of another person. Less of the ‘what do they think of me’, but more ‘how do I affect them? Does my company give them energy or inspiration, or am I a downer? Am I an ear for their worries? Are they an ear for mine?’. How do you make yourself confident in knowing who you are unless you concern yourself in what other people think of you? This is a tricky balance that in my opinion connects deeply to happiness, but while I’ll talk about it in another post, probably (it’s a whole kettle of whatevers on its own!), I’ll just say that you should consider others’ reactions when trying to understand who you are, not what you’re worth.
To close this article, I want to talk about HOW. How do you follow the advice above? It’s easy to say “Then just stop being miserable”, but it’s really really really hard to do in practice!
We all struggle. We all have our concerns and dreams and aspirations and spots where life spits in our face. Here is my advice to try and improve your day-to-day happiness:
– Stop jealousy. If someone has something you want, it’s ok to feel that pang of green jealousy, but stop those thoughts before they get too strong. Try to put yourself in that person’s shoes and you’ll quickly realize that where they have something you want, they also have a ton of different problems that you probably don’t want. That their lives are flawed, but just in different areas than yours.
– Learn more about yourself. I know I haven’t really touched on this here, but knowing who you REALLY are will give you confidence to face the nastier moments. Draw strength from the very essence of you. You’re this amazing unique combination of genetics and experiences. That’s worth a whole lot. You might say, “Well, everyone’s like that”, but how many people realize it and draw strength from it? Not many. How many people would you say really know who they are? Not many. You’d be amazed how much courage and confidence and strength you can draw from knowing where you’re strong, where you’re weak, and that you’re you.
– Find the small pleasures. That bird is beautiful. The sound of the rain at night is soothing, the person you’re talking to has unique ideas. Find those moments that happen to us every single day and embrace them, remember them, take a moment to actually see them. Reward yourself in a million small ways each day. Stop and take a picture of a beautiful flower, car, leaf, cloud. Smile at the person who makes your tea in the morning and ask them how they are. Take a moment to remember that you’re alive right now, and that once this day’s done, you’re never EVER getting it back.
These things take conscious effort and daily work to do. Don’t worry if you’re feeling down a day or two, it’s part of the ups and downs of life. None of this advice will make you constantly-Prozac-happy, but might just little by little reduce stress levels and increase the amount of time you can simply be at peace with yourself, and isn’t that what we all want?