Disclaimer: I am not an expert in Happiness. I wish I was. Wouldn’t that be a great thing in which to have expertise? I have conducted no studies on happiness; what follows are my own observations and conclusions, based on my own life. I am–unfortunately–something of an expert in misery.
1. You have defined happiness in the most limited way possible. Whatever happiness looks like, it’s only that. Only ever that. That one picture in your mind, that is happiness. It cannot possibly look like anything else.
When you look at happiness as a One Thing Only proposition, your chances of achieving it shrink faster than little Nick Szalinski in Honey I Shrunk the Kids. Pretty soon even a cheerio is bigger than your chances of ever finding it. Broaden your ideas of what happiness is; redefine what sorts of things will bring you happiness. I think that happiness looks like a house on the beach and a best-selling novel for the world to read. But I need to see that happiness can also look like a small room of my own and simply writing, for myself.
2. You have decided there is only one path to happiness. Whatever that One happiness is, let’s put additional stress on it by insisting that there’s only One Way to get it.
For example, your happiness depends upon your children being educated. Okay, I get it. That’s important. Let’s decide that the only way to achieve that happiness is for all of them to go to college. The end. No matter if they might be perfectly suited for the Vo-Tech, it’s irrelevant. They MUST go to a traditional, 4 year college! You’ve just constricted your chances at happiness. Allow for various ways in which happiness can be attained; there are all kinds of ways to get there. Some paths might take longer than others. This is okay too.
3. You have impossible standards.
Perfectionists are some of the most miserable people on earth. Loosen up. I’m slowly learning to give the people in my life permission to do things differently than me, even if it means loading the dishwasher completely wrong. The dishes get clean anyway! Wonder of wonders. Stop trying to control everything, and tell yourself that it’s okay to have crumbs on the floors and spots on the mirrors. Running yourself ragged chasing perfection will not only make you miserable, it will kill you. Happy is its own perfection.
4. You put yourself never. Not last. Never. Put yourself never.
Too many people call this being “spiritual”. They dress it up by saying they are denying themselves and taking up their cross, but the old Acronym JOY stands for Jesus, Others, You. This implies that YOU are somewhere in the list. Too many people spell joy as JO. I personally told myself there was no time for any of my own plans or dreams. I didn’t deserve them. This is a big, oozy, weeping pustule of a lie.
5. You stopped dreaming.
I talked about the importance of dreams here in this post. This is part of number 4–you’ve put yourself so far down the list that you don’t even plan for any of your future anymore; even your future belongs to everybody else. Misery follows close behind.
6. You tell yourself medication is for pussies. You don’t need it.
So many times I told myself that I just needed to pray more, do more, read more, and try harder, and I would be able to pull myself out of my depression. Ain’t so. I liken it to being at the bottom of a pit. At first you maybe able to climb out, but the longer you are there the deeper it gets. The tools you need to cope are at the top of the pit. You can no longer reach them. You need a boost. This is called medication. I’m probably a broken record on this point.
7. You compare yourself to others.
Hoooooboy. This is a big one. How many times have you seen a pretty picture or read a happy post on Facebook and had a pang of envy? It’s a natural human emotion, but if you’re still buying into the lie that everything is as it appears, this is a HUGE wake up call for you. Beautiful people poop too, as the saying goes. Happy faces can hide the saddest lives. And even if those sunny, Pollyanna types really do have bright, trouble-free lives, well, I bet they’re really boring people as a result. Come on. Honestly. The most interesting people are complex and somewhat turbulent. Congratulate yourself on being one of them. Just kidding. Sort of.
8. You constantly predict the future negatively.
You know the cycle: oh my god my kid told a lie–he’s going to be a juvenile delinquent, he’s going to drop out of school and become a bank robber and land in prison for the rest of his life. Rend the clothing! Wear the ashes! Everything is irreparable. I am the queen of catastrophizing, which is a real word that means, well, making minor things into major catastrophes within mere seconds. Mountains out of molehills. Maybe it’s my flair for the dramatic, but I can spiral myself into the pit of despair, and fast. So don’t do it. If you can catch the spiral before it gets a foothold–if you can realize what you are doing before it really gets rolling–you can reverse it, and learn to look at problems realistically and honestly. I used to be halfway down before I knew what was happening. Now I catch it almost before it starts.
Do you know of any other ways to misery? Care to share them in the comments?