Written by: Judy Lemke, MS, LPC, LCSW
The decision to enter mental health therapy can be due to a vast number of reasons or circumstances. Common issues may be anxiety, depression, relationship issues, medical concerns, anger issues, mood swings, conflicts with employers or co-workers, eating disorders, gender dysphoria, and more. One of the common denominators in all these concerns is the desire to be happy. Often, happiness is the end goal eve though we might be sure what that will look like in the end.
According to Wikipedia, “Happiness is used in the context of mental or emotional states, including positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. It is also used in the context of life satisfaction, subjective well-being, eudaimonia, flourishing and well-being “.
Seems simple enough, right? If so, then why are so many of us constantly feeling as though we are unable to obtain, much less sustain a state of happiness?
I have observed some patterns of thought or behavior in many who are either happy at times, typically unhappy most of the time, reportedly happy all the time and those who are still searching for what makes them happy. There are consistent and common things we do – me included – that seem to get in the way of being happy. Having an awareness of these “happiness hijackers” is an important step in moving forward.
- Instead of comparing yourself to other people, or comparing every friend, holiday experience, vacation, coffee shop, shopping or dining experience you’ve ever experienced, accept things that are different and remember diversity and contrast make our lives more interesting.
- Ignoring our heart and intuition. Most of us try to live our lives for ourselves but also in alignment with what others expect of us. Often, this life is not true to us. It has been said this is the top regret expressed by the dying. We need to have the courage to follow our heart and trust our intuition. It is our most dependable guide.
- Staying in our comfort zones. I am rarely a risk taker but holding ourselves back from taking risks and going after dreams because we feel secure, but not necessarily happy, keeps us focused on the certainty or predictability of our current life. We forget that even our secure life could change at any moment, so in many ways we are no more secure in the known than in the unknown.
- Holding on to resentment and anger. When we refuse to let go of past hurts and refuse to practice forgiveness, we are holding ourselves hostage in negativity. Ultimately, we are the one who lose out in the end through time wasted and spent being angry and bitter.
- If we constantly focus on problems, struggles, and worries, we perpetuate the same circumstances or unhealthy thoughts/behaviors again and again. If we start thinking in more positive terms, we can then experience more positive results.
- Questioning the present moment. If we are not yet living our ideal life, make peace with this fact while working towards your goals. If we struggle against each day, resenting tasks that need to be completed, it drains our energy, leaving nothing left in our tanks to work towards our dreams.
- Living in the past. If we hang on too tightly to the past and relive the best moments over and over, we may not be making enough room for new fabulous moments and great experiences to enter our lives. We need to have faith that our lives will continue to change in new and wonderful ways.
- Having no patience. As the saying goes, to everything there is a season. Learn to trust in divine timing more – believe we are in the right place doing the right things at the right time.
- Guilt and shame. We all make mistakes and act in ways that don’t reflect our best selves at times. That doesn’t’ make us bad people. We need to forgive ourselves, accept ourselves and remember that actions are not who we are.
- Waiting for the perfect moment. We put off our dreams until we feel ready and all the stars have aligned at the risk of waiting year after year after year. Sometimes we just have to decide it’s now or never. “Just do it”.
- We tend to be terrified of feeling fear and will often do almost anything to avoid it. While fear can make us uncomfortable, it cannot and should not prevent us from moving forward- unless we let it. Learn to live with the feeling of fear and keep moving forward. Keep moving forward. Keep moving forward.
- Carrying about what others think. We give away so much energy, power and inner peace worrying about what others think about us and our choices. We can’t ever know for sure what others are thinking – and they can never experience life from our point of view, making us the more appropriate expert on ourselves and our decisions.
- Repeating the same mistakes. As the saying goes “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”. When something is not working in our life, we can’t continue to bury our head in the sand. Learn the lesson, make some changes and move on.
- Letting our emotions consume us. When a strong negative emotion strikes, we often let it take over us completely, losing ourselves in the feeling of anger, pain, or jealousy. We need to be aware of our hot emotions when they occur and remember we are separate and above them. They are not who we are. We can continue to watch them until they fade away.
- All talk and no action. We can read all the self help and how to be successful books in the world, go to classes, read articles, but nothing will change in our lives until we start putting that knowledge into action. Stop reading. Start doing.
“Happiness is a journey, not a destination.” – Buddha