If you missed yesterday’s “Wellness Wednesday” post about happiness, I encourage you to go back and read it before you start this one. The comments we have received online and in person have been outstanding. I think we may have touched a nerve here.
Clearly, people are craving happiness.
We Are Not Happy
Look around at people the next time you are at the grocery store: pay attention to their posture, their facial expressions, and their body language (after all, 93% of all communication is non-verbal). They look empty. People want to feel happy, but they don’t. They try to mask that gap with entertainment, shopping, drugs, and illicit sex, but they just can’t get to a place where they really feel satisfied with life.
When you look at the diversions they choose, they are typically habits that come with some sort of neurotransmitter reward: dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin flow freely when we are pursing these kinds of pleasures. We want to feel happy, and we DO feel happy for short bursts of time (those neurotransmitters doing their jobs again), but we want more (oops…I forgot to mention that dopamine is highly addictive). The “rush” of excitement lasts only a few moments or hours, and then we want that “fix” again.
Why do you think “comfort food” is so powerful?
But that’s why yesterday’s post about neurotransmitters is only part of the answer.
Look at the way we advertise products. Everything from clothes to cheeseburgers to cellphones to cubic zirconia is marketed to us in a way that suggests that we have a right to be happy, and that indulging in these extra trinkets will provide that happiness. We “deserve” them, the pitch says. We want to feel that rush.
Why Are We Unhappy?
Don’t we have a right to feel happy? Isn’t the pursuit of happiness part of the American Dream? Isn’t it our birthright?
You can make several assumptions about people based on this, and even raise a platitude or two: you could say people are unhappy because they feel a sense of entitlement to a lifestyle they are not receiving. You could say that they are empty because they don’t have Jesus in their lives. You could say that people are just whiny brats. “It’s the curse of American consumerism,” shouts one pundit. Another yells that we are unhappy because there is so much bad news in the world.
I’m not sure any of those notions is really 100% on the mark. After all, some of the unhappiest people I know are Christians (who should be the most joyful), and some of the happiest people I’ve ever met live in relative poverty.
Apparently, happiness is a mindset.
I Can Choose To Be Happy
While I believe that real joy and fulfillment come from having an active friendship with your Creator and His Son, who died to pay the penalty of the sin that kept you away from Him, I understand that happiness is a more fluid emotion. I can have joy in my heart, but not have happiness in my thinking because of my circumstances. I’ve been there plenty of times. There is a difference between joy and happiness – maybe I’ll take some time to dig deeper into that in a later article.
How do I get the happiness back in those times?
Well, I can wait for my circumstances to improve before I have a mood adjustment, but I don’t think the people I interact with everyday want to wait that long. If I want to be a leader in my home, my office, and my community, I can let my emotions dictate my thinking, and I can’t let my circumstances dictate my emotions.
I recently read this fantastic article that I want to share with you about optimism vs. pessimism. I urge you to read it. Maybe several times. Really. It’s that good.
In short, they determined that the difference between optimism and pessimism is not that the optimist has better circumstances, but that he CHOOSES to respond positively to his circumstances. If you believe the world is out to get you, then every bad thing that happens reinforces your outlook and every good thing that happens is an accident. A sense of helplessness fosters a life of fear and anger. A life of proactive hopefulness allows you to view everything life throws at you as an opportunity, not an obstacle. Do you see how powerful this simple mindset adjustment can be?
Unhappiness is rooted in this helplessness, and the roots go down deep. This article breaks down the different levels of subconscious thought that shape our thought patterns
The best part is – optimism and pessimism are LEARNABLE – we are not born with them. We can choose which one we will allow to direct our thoughts. And because we can choose, we can change. THAT’S POWER! You can actually take control of your future by grabbing ahold of this one simple concept. You can choose to change the way you think about your circumstances. Your beliefs direct your thoughts. Your thoughts direct your actions. You actions set your character. You character determines your destiny.
You just got the key to change your whole life, and it’s not complicated.
But seriously…thank you for reading my post all the way to the end, but I really want to you read that other article. It will really help you. And it might help someone else you know. Take a minute and share this article on Facebook, and let’s get some others set free in their thinking.
“At the end of your feelings is NOTHING. At the end of your principles is a PROMISE.” — Eric Thomas