Wednesday 1st December 2021

Young. 44/51. #LifeThisWeek. Mr W. Happiness Myth. 124/2021.

Young. 44/51. #LifeThisWeek. Mr W. Happiness Myth. 124/2021.

Welcoming back my husband for his final contribution in 2021. And, for your info: there are “only” 7 more weeks of Life This Week in 2021!!

 

Content Warning: Mental Health, Self Harm, Suicide, Addiction. Information at the end of this post.

 

THE HAPPINESS MYTH


I’m always amused by the overwhelming focus our society has on happiness as members scramble like hell to acquire material possessions. How many times has the question, “What do you want in life?” been asked with the response, “Oh, I just want to be happy!”

The entrepreneurs have swooped on this pointless wish and produced enough books and programs on how we can be happy to fill the state library a couple of times and then some.

Do this or do that and you’ll be happy as if ‘happiness’ is a constant state that we all ought to be aspiring to. It’s bunkum! It’s a myth and it can be a dangerous trap!

Life today is more treacherous than it was for our tribal ancestors who were cave dwellers. Their sabre-toothed tiger can be likened to our internet that crawls with users, claws out and ready to pounce on some prey. Life today is painful, often disheartening and seemingly without hope. Bureaus of Statistics universally share some scary statistics in relation to its manifestations.

  • About 264 million of the global population are clinically depressed. Generally, people who are depressed also have an anxiety disorder.
  • 20% of us will go through a period of depression.
  • A quarter of us have, has had or will have an addiction.
  • 3 adults in 10 have a recognised psychological disorder (bi-polar, borderline personality disorder, autism, schizophrenia, etc.).
  • Of all the people you know over half will give thought to suicide. 1 in 10 will attempt to take their own life.

Don’t be alarmed by these statistics.

They simply serve to demonstrate that contemporary living is bloody hard and that those happy spikes have a more random occurrence than the sad troughs. This is not helped by our naturally occurring negative bias evolved to help us survive the hungry rage of that sabre-toothed tiger. Unhappily, it has left contemporary us in that state of alert which, when triggered ignites distorted thinking and has us going down the catastrophic slippery slope of fear and uncertainty.

Hence the need to live in the now!

Happiness is a temporary state of emotion in response to a specific stimulus.

On the lower or negative side of the continuum is sadness, also a temporary feeling but a more prolonged state. Above the centre continuum is happiness, its peaks less prolonged than its counterpart’s. Think about the screen of an oscilloscope as it depicts sound waves.

The peaks represent the happy moments and the troughs the sad. What you may notice is that neither remain around for long. What you may also notice is that, over a period of time, they tend to even themselves out.

That happy spike you felt last Sunday when you and your partner engaged in the most joyful of intimate moments will spike with maximum height and intensity. While you might want the feeling at its peak to go on and on, we would simply be unable to psychosomatically sustain it.

Even continued happiness at a lower level is unsustainable. The greater the ‘up’ feeling the more they offset the down times. The resultant flattening out will, with a number of other effects, leave us in a state of CONTENTMENT!  That’s what we need to aspire to!

Contentment – What’s That?

“Man’s happiness really lies in contentment.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Contentment is the state of peaceful well-being resulting from taking what life is offering ‘now’ and working with it. It is attending to and respecting the reality of the present in order to live a rich, full and meaningful life. In so doing, those happy moments integrate with the sad times leaving us in a pleasant state of contentment.

So, What Are Its Characteristics?

The person who is truly content will demonstrate the following attributes:

 

  • a kindness and compassion to him/herself and to others;
  • a general satisfaction with life that finds joy in what we have;
  • an understanding that all feelings are temporary;
  • a lack of envy for what others have;
  • a satisfaction with our possessions, status and situation;
  • humility that recognises the temporary nature of life and its material things (sic transit gloriae mundae – Latin for ‘thus passes worldly goods’);
  • doesn’t measure success in terms of material acquisitions;
  • doesn’t try to find fulfilment through the acquisition of more material possessions – how much of anything do we really need;
  • self-discipline in managing one’s life and affairs; and,
  • an abhorrence of greed and the thirst for power recognising the destructive capabilities of both;
  • lives a rich, full and meaningful life.

 

Can You Show Me a Picture?

 Sorry, I can’t show you a picture. But I can do the next best and show you a simplified graphic representation.

The following sine wave provides a general idea of what happens with our emotions during the course of a time interval. The blue line represents our happy and sad moments that peak and trough.

Its frequency is much less even and varied than in the representation. However, it’s a very good illustration of how our emotions jump around randomly in response to thoughts, memories, urges, etc.

The most important line is black centre line. It is our line of contentment. The blue feeds the black so the more positive and rewarding our experiences are, the thicker the line of contentment.

 

How Do I Enrich My Line of Contentment?

 Life for the contemporary citizen is based around ‘doing’. This is not unexpected because the updated brain is always in the ‘doing’ mode ready to solve your next problem for you. The big problem with that is that the brain cannot solve a problem of the heart.

So, when the next feeling dilemma arises, the brain tries to think its way to happiness or instructs you to resist that feeling. Both are not solutions.The first because it’s impossible as the brain seeks only rational solutions and the second because the undesirable feeling will persist and even grow hungrier.

Hence the need to have our minds override the brain and allow us to just BE.

We are, after all, human BEINGS!

In the BEING mode,

  • We allow all feelings, even welcoming the more painful ones. They belong to us and are therefore our responsibility. We name them and neutralise them by recognising their temporary state. They will pass.

 

  • We are being MINDFUL of all that’s going on in the ‘now’ – just ask Leo Tolstoy, he’ll tell you that it’s very important to pay attention to the ‘now’. After all, there’s more than enough going on in the ‘now’ to keep us busy without looking for trouble from the past or future. So, it’s important to be aware, open, attentive and curious in the ‘now’ in order to capture all moments.

 

  • Reflect on your values. They have formed the basis for doing what matters to you. If you’ve hit a roadblock or are in a roundabout with no exit, be willing to change what’s not working for you. Maybe you are basing your behaviour on the expectations of others. Check your own rulebook. Our lives become more content when we operate on our values-driven rules. If something is not working for you, do what does by changing the dynamics of the pesky rule!

 

  • Give yourself a grading on self-compassion. Being kind to, and caring of yourself is as important as being compassionate to others. Think of it as a two-way street.

 

  • When in doubt about how to defuse a critical thought – sing! Here’s a little exercise to try. Think of a thought that’s causing you pain, e.g. “I’m not good enough” or “I’m a loser!” Sing that song to a familiar ditty such as ‘Happy Birthday’ or ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ and observe what happens. You’ll discover that you’re not who you thinks you are.

 

  • Contentment relies on authenticity – being true to who you are. This is defined by your values that also inform what really matters to you. The transgression of your values, by yourself or others, creates pain.

 

  • Contentment loves gratitude. Reflect each day on what you are genuinely grateful for. The question, “what am I grateful for”, triggers a release of chemicals that our body loves and feeds our feelings of inner peace and contentment.

 

  • Both Denyse and I get great joy and feelings of contentment viewing this rose that has been growing in the front garden for years now.

As a final thought I offer you the following based on the AA prayer.

“ Give me the courage to solve those problems that can be solved, the serenity to accept those problems that can’t be solved and,

The wisdom to know the difference.”

“Happiness is self-contentedness.” – Aristotle

Thanks to Bernard for his final post for 2021. We have some great conversations about how I add the posts to the blog. All good!! Photo collage above expresses my gratitude for his love and presence in my life since October 1970. We’ve had our ups, downs and in betweens through a marriage of over 50 years but I know that “I” am feeling more contentment with my life as it is now because of my experiences and some of the teachings Bernard has helped me learn. Denyse. 

For those who may need to reach out to organisations based on this story’s content these are Australian-based sources for help.
Your Family G.P. can be a helpful person to listen and make referrals.

Lifeline on 13 11 14

Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636

Phone 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) for 24 hour assessment, referral, advice, and hospital and community health centre contact details

Qualified Psychologists can be found by visiting https://www.psychology.org.au/FindaPsychologist/

Australian Counselling Association is on 1300 784 333 to find a counsellor

 

Link Up #264.

Life This Week. Link Up #264.

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