BY: T. Franklin Murphy | March 2016
Live well now creating a future with less stress to interfere with the joy.
The over-zealous pursuit of happiness is disruptive. The pursuit intrudes on happiness. When happiness—or lack of—becomes a problem to solve, we over-analyze experience. A salient feature of a satisfying life is focus on the quality of experience; we live it. Worry about losing present happiness disrupts good feelings, drags attention from pleasantries and focuses on the irritating.
We shouldn’t dance in blinded bliss—some behaviors need examining. Our action impacts the feeling experience. Behaviors do matter. Experience does matter. Life examination identifies happiness harming consequences, removing destructive choices. But this work can’t be all consuming. By budgeting spending, we resolve anxiety of paying bills. But once resolved, our worries may continue, fretting over the stock market, possible employment loss and a million other unsavory happenings that can disrupt financial security.
With mindful change, we improve our lives. These changes help but don’t magically grant happiness. There is a thought component to happiness. Healthy thoughts compliment healthy action and environments—not replace them.
Sometimes life doesn’t feel right. Chronic depression, anxiety, and anger invades stability. A simple solution, such as a budget, doesn’t solve the developmental learning and biological thorns in our happiness bubble. But a followed budget does reduce some anxiety when mortgage payment is due.
Many people struggling with emotional balance desperately chase momentary pleasures to escape the continued haunting in their mind. Pleasure can serve as a respite from ordinary trials, but constant pleasure invites more tormenting demons, further deteriorating futures with additional anxieties. We must gather strength and resources to implement healthy action to minimize challenges to preserve enough energy to effectively focus on those annoying thoughts that interrupt our lives.
Personal work must be done with tenderness. We don’t want to live by a schema of constantly working on our broken soul. Vigilantly attacking personality traits, thoughts, relationships, and life habits rarely invites a more palatable life. The struggle to find happiness devours peace with the declaration of war—an angry battle within. Our selfhood becomes this war, embroiled in fixing, instead of appreciating and enjoying life.
"Vigilantly attacking personality traits, thoughts, relationships, and life habits rarely invites a more palatable life."
Many pursue happiness and never find it. Some popular theories simplify the happiness problem with equations. While equations are helpful, they also mislead. Feelings, such as happiness, are constructed from numerous biological, experiential and social variables—complexity. A simple equation can’t definitively solve the unknown value of (H) happiness.
We need to stop solving the happiness problem and simply live the best we can. The books, studies, suggestions, and philosophies are not worthless; they offer insights into the variables. We can learn new skills, overcome unhealthy patterns, and build better relationships. All these improvements encourage more positive feelings and limit stress in the future.
When we adopt a new happiness philosophy, the beliefs may awaken new feelings, giving hope and excitement. A philosophy’s effectiveness depends on our past, biology, and social structures. One person may respond with immediate elation and hope, only to be discouraged later; while another may respond with immediate skepticism but ultimately find life-long purpose.
Psychological Stress: Strain placed on the psyche, placing pressure on stability. Some stress builds strength; too much weakens and destroys.
The philosophies differ in value. Some are simply bunk, created to deceive the needy and give money to the unscrupulous. Other philosophies may be equally worthless but are disseminated with good intentions. If a program is deeply flawed and destined to fail, our investment of time, energy, and hope is wasted. We must once again, get off the ground, brush the dust off our knees and seek something else. Differentiating between effective philosophies is exhausting and tests our skills and resolve.
A flawed program may inspire guilt in the followers, suggesting the participants failure is the cause and not the core beliefs of the program. The Puritan work ethic drove exploration and creation. The work ethic contributed to the successful settlement of new frontiers; but also attributed to depression and illness. Doctors routinely proscribe weeks or even months of bed rest to wearied souls.
The positive thinking movement took root providing a cure to many bedridden, tired, and discouraged people. The trade-offs between work and thought. We need to find our own effective balance. Few of us can afford several weeks of bed rest.
The active pursuit of happiness creates a happiness problem to solve—instead of a state to be enjoyed. We become overly critical of emotions, relationships, and events that we believe interfere with an imagined state of future happiness. The more time we devote seeking what is wrong, the more we feel dissatisfied—a nasty cycle of malcontent destroys the moment. Eventually with frustration, we lament, “What is wrong with me, why is my life so bad!”
I provide no all-encompassing answer. Some happiness philosophies work well for some but fail to inspire others. With maturity, growth and wisdom, we may revisit previously accepted regimens that no longer work and explore new options. Perhaps, part of the answer is pursuing happiness indirectly by engaging in healthy activities that relieves future anxieties. By making healthy choices in health, finances, education and relationships, we partially solve the happiness problem by removing future distracters—anxieties; fewer stressful events create a better sense of well-being. By making improvements in mind, body and spirit, we soften the impact of outside events.
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