What Does It Take to Find REAL Happiness?
Dr. Rick Petronella
Is it really true that more and more of something (love, sex, fame, drugs, etc.) will make you happy? Unfortunately, if you are not careful, the more pleasure you get the more you will need in the future to continue making you happy. This is referred to as hedonic adaptation. Your brain will adapt to high-pleasure experiences, so you’ll need more each time to achieve the same effect. Seeking more and more of a pleasure high can often lead to depression because it wears out the pleasure centers in your brain, according to Dr. Daniel Amen. This phenomenon repeats itself in athletes, movie stars, and recording artists who never learned to manage their minds; assuming the next “thing” with make them happy.
A “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” mindset, promoted by the popular 1988 Grammy Song of the Year by Bobby McFerrin, will not make you happy. In fact, this mindset can make you unhappy and kill you early. According to one of the longest longevity studies ever published, the “don’t worry, be happy people” die early from accidents and preventable illnesses. You need some anxiety to be happy. Appropriate anxiety helps us make better decisions. It prevents us from running into the street as children, risking broken bodies, and running headlong into dysfunctional relationships as adults, risking broken hearts.
Can another place make us happy? The notion that happiness lies elsewhere is wrong. A prime example is Disneyland, which claims to be “the happiest place on earth.” I grew up in Southern California, and Disneyland opened in 1955. I’ve been many times. Depending on whom I’m with, it can be fun. It also can be stressful and exhausting because of the large crowds, long lines, crying children, and expensive tickets. I am convinced it’s not the happiest place on earth,
Do we need a smartphone, watch, tablet, or the latest technology to make us happy? Technology can be addicting; gadgets and apps grab our attention and distract us from more important things such as family, friends, fitness, or faith. Many people eat at the same table but engage with their phones, rather than with each other. Current research has found that many teens spend more hours on social media (average 9 hours) than they do sleeping. Children 8 to 12 are online 6 hours a day. Technology has hijacked developing brains with potentially serious consequences for many.
The book of Proverbs says, ‘the eye and the grave are never satisfied…” Proverbs 27:20
There is something about what the Dalai Lama says: Instead of wanting what we don’t have, how about wanting what we already do have. In other words, we need to find all the many reasons we have to be grateful. Look toward what we have to offer the world rather than the self-serving approach in life. Many people expect others to understand us and make us happy–parents, spouses, friends. But in truth, it is our own responsibility to find our own happiness. No one else is responsible for our happiness.
Life isn’t always just about being happy. When our goal is just to be happy, we miss out on all of the other emotions that make a complex and full life. For example, sorrow and grief are necessary for us to move forward as a loved one passes away. It is the trend now to strip all the formalities of funerals — no viewing of the body, no saying goodbye at a wake, no talking to long lines of friends sharing their sympathies. We want to gloss over a death and just be happy, then we wonder why we aren’t just happy… Emotions on all spectrums are necessary and are key element to life. The lows must be experienced to truly appreciate the joys. If our life’s goal is to just be happy, then we’ve missed out on LIFE.
10 Attitudes that Block Happiness
We all seek that elusive quality of “happiness.” Here are some things you can place your awareness on and STOP so you can be happier.
1. Impressing. What you have —your possessions, your accomplishments—don’t result in real relationship or lasting happiness.
2. Blaming. Your response to any situation is your choice. Try making it a learning opportunity—taking responsibility is empowering.
3. Controlling. It doesn’t help you feel good about yourself. Honor your boundaries, but make space for others’ needs and choices, too.
4. Criticizing. We are all unique and different, not better or worse. Appreciate the differences instead of zeroing in on shortcomings.
5. Whining. Complaining is ineffective, whereas asking for what you want is liberating.
6. Clinging to what is known. When you’re feeling afraid or insecure, be willing to let go of the familiar, take a risk and try something new.
7. Being Ungrateful. Stay aware of all the gifts and blessings that you do have. Express gratitude and happiness will follow.
8. Preaching. Another form of judging. Find more fun and empowering ways to share your knowledge.
9. Negative Self-talk. Train yourself to notice your mind’s chatter. Working towards changing negative thoughts to positive ones will transform your life.
10. Fear. Don’t let fear get in the way of progress. Whatever you’ve been dreaming, get going on it. “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”