It’s super-simple…the happier we are, the healthier we are and vice versa. It has been shown time and again that happy people live longer and have lower incidence of heart disease, stroke and other conditions. Yet we are burdened and surrounded by unhappiness at every turn. Not just a little malaise—I mean serious, angry, name-calling, “my life sucks” unhappiness.
My new mission: Helping people rediscover the happiness within them…the happiness that our bodies were created to enjoy…the happiness and peace that we had as children but that has been scheduled, regulated and “competitioned” out of us.
How am I going to do that?
Through the years, I’ve spent a lot of time reading about and researching happiness. There are so many theories and so many strategies to achieve happiness. And all of them have merit—kind of like diets. They all work once you find the methods that work for you. And much like dieting, you need different tactics at different times.
But none of these strategies will work if you’re not clear about what true happiness is for you. You can’t find something if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Frankly, I think most people have no idea what they’re looking for when it comes to happiness and often have a false understanding of what happiness is. That results in deep disappointment and feelings of unhappiness.
Oddly, we frequently talk about all the things that make us unhappy, but happiness seems to be far more elusive.
There’s what I will call “Hollywood happy”—or should I call it “social-media perfect”? Everyone is always smiling and has perfect hair, healthy bodies, sunny days and beautiful clothes. They live in lovely neat houses with no clutter or mess. They have gaggles of friends and perfect star-athlete, star-musician, honor-roll children.
We all know that no one’s life is truly like that. And thinking that we have to live up to those standards only creates insecurity and can lead to low self-esteem and depression. And yet, deep down inside, many of us believe that we are supposed to smile and be happy all the time.
When we fall into this all-or-nothing thinking, we actually set ourselves up for unhappiness—the lack of happy—because we have so much “evidence” of failure. But it’s false thinking. Happiness is not a singular constant state. It comes and goes, and can take on different forms at different times.
No one is happy 100% of the time. Our jobs aren’t perfect all the time. Our spouses and partners are not perfect all the time. Nor are our kids and our friends. It’s vital to understand that having those moments of “not happy” does not mean that you are entirely unhappy or that your life sucks. It just means that life has its better and less-better moments. And it is the less-better moments that help us recognize the value and beauty of the good moments. Even people in sunny California wish for rain sometimes.
I had a wonderful conversation with our Bottom Line expert Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, who has treated thousands of patients suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, about finding happiness. Jake, a regular guest on our Bottom Line Health and Happiness FB live program, explained it simply—unhappiness comes from within ourselves. How do we frame those less-better moments? And what do we say to ourselves about them?
According to Jake, happiness starts with freeing ourselves from the burdens that we place on ourselves and the people around us. He talks about the self-destructiveness of judgment (I’m a failure…I’m fat…I can’t do that)…blame (My parents are mean…my boss doesn’t get it…it’s not fair that)…excessive obligations…and more that we impose on ourselves. Most of us aren’t even aware of the constant self-chatter that blocks our ability to feel good and goes well beyond just thoughts and emotions. It can suppress our feel-good hormones.
If I asked you to rate your happiness level today, where would it be on a scale of one to 10? I mean big picture, overall—where are you on a happiness scale?
Are you having a hard time picking a single number? That’s not surprising.
How about this instead…can you make a list of the things that made you feel happy yesterday? Can you make a list of the things that were annoying or made you unhappy yesterday? Is it easier to make a list of the unhappy things?
It’s frighteningly easy to live in the unhappy side of life… and then complain about it and wish for things to be better. But, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, you’re likely already there…you just don’t realize it yet.
You can’t reach a goal if you aren’t clear about what it is…and that means you won’t be happy if you aren’t clear about what that experience feels like. I urge you to take some time and see if you can find your definition of happiness…and, with that as the marker, go back and rate yourself on a happiness scale. Once you realize what’s important to happiness, you may be pleasantly surprised at how great you have it.
Sarah Hiner, president and CEO of Bottom Line Inc., is passionate about giving people the tools and knowledge they need to be in control of their lives in areas such as living a healthier life, the challenges of the health-care system, commonsense financial advice and creating great relationships. She appears often on national radio and hosts the Bottom Line Advocator Podcast, where she interviews leading experts to help people be their own best advocates in all areas of life.