Last night I went to bed earlier than usual, as I have had a busy couple of weeks and have been very tired. Tired ‘to have my eyes closing when I’m on the sofa’ tired. But then I woke up, feeling completely awake and uneasy. I couldn’t find a comfortable position, I couldn’t get back to sleep. Because I went to bed early, I wasn’t tired anymore, as this was about 6 in the morning. So I just stayed there, lying in bed, thinking about how I didn’t want to sleep, but how I didn’t feel like getting up either.
Why are there days like this? Am I the only one? I’m not depressed or sad or anything like that – as far as I know! – and, still, some days, I just can’t get going. I then picked up my phone and went on the internet. I typed in ‘happiness’ and found some excellend stuff that calmed my spirits. And so I decided to share it with you.
Apparently, there are 4 mistakes we make when we are pursuing happiness. 4, that’s it. And here they are:
1. Let it flow.
When we are thinking about happiness and trying to establish if we are happy, we end up comparing current experiences to past ones. We don’t notice when we do this, exactly, but this alone blocks a happy moment. The minute you start making comparisons, you shift from experiencing mode to evaluating mode. Think of the days when you are enjoying your work so much that when you look again it’s 5pm. Think of the holidays in the sunshine that go so quickly. Think of being immersed in a book that you are really enjoying. Think of savouring some nice food. Think of having great sex. Think of ice cream, think of a good movie, think of admiring the sunset, think of cold beer when you are really really thirsty.Yes, you’re in the zone. You’re so immersed in the task that you lose track of time and the outside world. This is happiness.
2. Get real.
The second thing that we do that makes us dodge happiness is to overestimate the emotional impact of positive life events. We think that a major promotion, a new partner, a new house or a new car will make us happier, overlooking the fact that we’ll adapt to the new circumstances. Each time something changes for the better in our lives, we get happy… and so we should. However, that something won’t change our lives forever. We will get used to things again and will probably question again if we should be pursuing something or someone else that will bring us happiness. So I guess it’s not about the what, but more about the how.
3. It’s everywhere.
Happiness is an individual state, so we tend to look for it in ourselves. However, in a recent study, the greater the value people placed on happiness, the more lonely they felt every day for the next two weeks. I think the clue here is to get involved with other people, to let them be in our lives and let us be in theirs too. I’m guilty of this myself. Lately, I have found that I like my own company and I like being at home, so I don’t do much socialising. I’m lazy for it, that’s the honest truth. In fact, I’m just like my dad. He is not a person to do much small talk and I’m the same. If it won’t be meaningful, I’d rather read a book, thanks. I don’t do it on purpose, though, I guess I have just learned how to say no when I want to. However, it doesn’t look like this is the right approach. We need contact to be happy. We need to interact. Hermits like me can only get depressed, so I’ll have to sart being really careful and getting my bum off the sofa and out the door. Soon.
4. Mild is fine, thanks very much.
The fourth and last mistake we make is to look for intense happiness. When we want to be happy, we look for strong positive emotions like joy, elation, enthusiasm, and excitement. Research shows, however, that this isn’t the best path to happiness. Apparently, happiness is driven by the frequency, not the intensity, of positive emotions. When we aim for intense positive emotions, we evaluate our experiences against a higher standard, which makes it easier to be disappointed, since an intense positive experience can only lead us to frame ordinary experiences as less positive. So, this one is a given, right? Again, it’s the little things. Receiving a smile from a stranger on the street, finding parking space on a busy road, being driven somewhere by your mum whilst having a nice chat, achieving something before the microwave pings (ha! I knew you’d identify with this one!), lying on the grass on a sunny day. That’s it. No mater how small, happiness is in everything. And if we think about it, there are many more small opportunities that can bring us happiness than massive ones. So mild happiness can become ‘big time’ happiness. If you give it a chance.
So, overall, I think that if we change our actions, and not our circumstances, we have a much better chance to let happiness be in our lives. And then, we probably won’t even notice it, as it will be part of our day, every day, every minute of it.
By the way, I did get up. I also went to work, went to a shop and returned an item that I no longer wanted, came back home, made my dinner and I’m now about to watch a movie with my partner Lee, so I guess the day went fairly well after all. Sometimes all you need is to just get up and get out, without thinking too much.
By the way (2), the source for this post is here.