Find Your Happiness

Mon 2015-06-15

For my first blog entry, I would like to summarize for you an article “How to Find Your Happiness” from the Huffington Post. This article is written by Lisa Firestone, Ph.D., Director of Research and Education for the Glendon Association and expert on interpersonal relationships, parenting, suicide and violence.

Dr. Firestone discusses how many of us don’t know how to be happy. “Many of us don't know ourselves well enough to conceptualize what we actually want. We conform to the notions and ideals of our society, our family and other influences that can drown out our own point of view. We spend our lives repeating patterns and filling prescriptions from our past that don't serve us in the present. ... we wind up seeking someone else's idea of happiness.” She explains it pretty well, but to sum it up in short: We think we want what we’ve been told we want, but we don’t actually know what we really want!

This makes me think about one of my own misconceptions on happiness -- shopping. Stuff, stuff, stuff! I love stuff. Or at least, that’s what I thought. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what I really need to be happy. And it’s not stuff. New stuff gives instant gratification which wears away quickly. Soon the clutter leads to a stressful environment and what for? Expensive garbage that I never use? Is that really what happiness comes from?

“Definitely not” is what Dr. Firestone would say. She provides a list of sources of happiness, backed with sources which you can find on the original article. 1. Happiness doesn't come from filling our days with fun things. 2. Happiness involves transcendent goals. 3. To seek happiness, we have to realize our personal power. 4. Happiness involves maturity. 5. Happiness comes with a price. 6. Happiness means being willing to evolve.

The first one is about instant-gratification. It doesn’t work! It’s like a drug. You buy something, get an immediate but short high, associate purchases with happiness, and then repeat. Sometimes I get a craving to buy something and go shopping with the intent of spending money. That’s the behavior of an addict. Thus I’ve been working on impulse control in order to be happy. (I’ve also been researching simple living, which I will share in later posts.)

The second one is generosity! Being charitable really warms you up inside. Giving, not getting, has been shown to lead to longer, happier lives! It’s a really simple way to improve your happiness. And if you donate your time, you can have a lot of fun in the process!

The third talks about strength of character. Forgive the past and don’t play the victim. You have to take responsibility for your own emotions while also removing baggage that weighs you down. Maybe you live with some regret from your past -- I definitely used to. It’s really important to forgive yourself and move forward. If it’s been bothering you so much, clearly you’re sorry, so the next step is forgiveness! And if something bad happened that you did not cause, don’t let it hold you down. Make the best of it, find the silver lining, and try your best to be resilient.

The fourth says to not be childish and not be parent-like either! Being controlled reduces your power and potential. Since we can’t control others, trying to parent them just increases dissatisfaction and distracts us from our life.

The fifth is one I know very well -- you can’t have increased happiness without increasing your sadness too. Opening up to joy and numbing pain doesn’t work. Dr. Firestone puts it very well: “The human condition is a painful one, and we must be willing to feel our sadness, our anger and our fears in order to live a vital and passionate existence.” (I will discuss sensitivity in future blog posts!)

The sixth is about maintaining the spark inside you! Trying new experiences and expanding your world keeps life alive. Routine and a closed life will wither your poor little soul. You’ll say goodbye to your sense of independence if you cage yourself up so spread those wings and go explore!

Dr. Firestone concludes her article by explaining that happiness isn’t selfish. Happiness is about being your best self, which in turn makes the world a better place. She quotes Howard Thurman: “Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

By Britt, Category: Psychology

Tags: self help /