In search of happiness
I have changed Jobs 6 different times in my adult life thinking each time that “this new job will make me happy”. Happiness did not last.
I decided to go into business for myself thinking that I would be happy if I could be my own boss. Happiness did not last.
I made money. For a period of time I took home a six digit income. Those were some of the most miserable years of my life.
I tried two different denominations of faith and 3 different churches. Happiness was not found.
I looked for happiness in relationships. I found that other people cannot make me happy.
I looked for happiness in prescription medication. I found that it only helps me not to be quite as sad.
I looked for happiness in alcohol. I just got drunk.
I looked for happiness in extracurricular activities. I found they only shamed me… leaving me with memories that painfully plague my mind forever.
What is the psychology behind this? Why doesn’t the excitement of new thing last? Why do we eventually feel unhappy again? Studies show that you have about 3 to 6 months to enjoy the feelings of something new. Then it is done. Your mind is not equipped to live continually in a heightened state of arousal. Your brain adapts and the feelings of excitement fade. Then we are on the search once more for the next thing to give us that excitement. Before we know it, we have searched a life time for happiness only to find in the end that nothing ever lasted.
Before understanding the psychology of not being able to hold on to that heightened state of arousal, I could not figure out why NOTHING gave me permanent happiness. I looked at my Grandma who was not poor, but certainly was not rich. She lived in the same small house for 60 years. She had old well maintained cars. She had 30,000 dollars in her “retirement account”. She had nothing special, nothing above average and was one of the happiest, most content people I have ever known.
I have been in over 2,500 people’s homes due to one of my business as a real estate appraiser. It was almost a rule that as materials and money decreased, the happiness and contentment of the people proportionally increased (assuming base needs were met such as food, clothing and shelter). The opposite was true. As the size of the house and corresponding bank account went up, the more the people’s happiness diminished. In fact, I found the rich to be among the most condescending, rude, inhospitable, self-absorbed sect of people I had ever met. You can’t outwardly be all those things unless you are inwardly miserable. I am not even remotely stating that lack of money makes you happy, or that having money makes you miserable. It was the mindset of the people themselves, not the money.
I have witnessed many news accounts of the rich and famous checking into rehab, standing before judges for destruction of property, theft, possession of drugs and firearms and assault of another human being. I have witnessed news accounts of them taking their own lives. In fact it seems as if these things are common place.
Obviously money, job status, big houses, new cars, trophy wives and husbands, drugs, alcohol, relationships, fame, or anything outside of us, cannot make us happy. If it could, then why are the rich generally miserable and the lower class generally happy? What lower class people have to be happy about based on American culture: nothing. Yet they still are. Why? They have learned the secret.
The Secret of Happiness
We all know it, but we don’t get it. The secret of happiness it that happiness comes from within us, NOT from outside us. But we twist this knowledge into something it should not be. We pervert it. We constantly run back to money, people and possessions. “I would be truly happy if “I could just get a man/woman.” “If I can just get this job, I will be happy”. If I could just possess this one thing, I would be happy”. Six months. Six months at the outside is the time that happiness will last if it is solely based on exterior circumstances. Then your brain will say “enough of all this high intensity” and will regulate back to a normal level of satisfaction”.
We have to CHOOSE to be happy. We can CHOOSE to not let circumstances effect our lives. Remember circumstances are neutral. We have the choice as to what value we place on them. We have the choice to see problems or see solutions (even opportunities). We have the choice to play the victim/martyr or the one who is tenacious (hanging on never quitting) or even the hero. We have the choice to be calm and content in all things, or anxious and discontent in all things.
Happiness is found in the day to day small things. A good cup of coffee. A good conversation. A job well done. A sunny day. A rainy day. Finding the beauty around you by being awake and observant. A comfortable bed. The breeze on your skin. Realizing that everything does not have to be more than it already is. A lot of things are good just the way they are. We don’t need to add to them to “make them even better”. The list of little things to be happy about in a day is endless. Again as I often discuss, we can train our brains to think differently if we constantly train them. If we CHOOSE to look for all the little things that make us happy hour by hour, then we will end up happy at the end of the day. If we do this every day, we will end up happy at the end of the week. Do this every week; you gain a year of happiness. Do this every year; you gain a life time of happiness.
The choice is ours. The point is, that rich or poor, single or married, good job or bad, healthy or unhealthy…we can CHOOSE to be happy. It is a choice. It is as simple as that. Hard times will always come and go. But you can choose to be happy. Please read “circumstances are neutral” for more about controlling your thoughts.