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Seeking happiness???

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“Happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder…” – Thoreau

As we go through our daily lives, the quest for happiness takes precedence. In the US, citizens are granted three inalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In the kingdom of Bhutan, there’s a national index to measure happiness.{{more}} But what if searching for happiness actually prevents us from finding it? There’s reason to believe that the quest for happiness might actually be a recipe for misery.

An Irish psychologist, by the name of Iris Mauss, noted in a series of his studies that the more value people placed on happiness, the less happy they became. This was primarily because there is a lack of understanding about what happiness truly means and more so how it can be attained and where it may exist. For many persons, happiness was defined and understood in external factors, such as spouses, jobs, family members, money, power, prestige. There was a clear disconnect of the internal link or responsibility in achieving their own happiness.

Waiting for someone to make you happy:

If a person has a negative self-image and generally feels poorly about themselves, they may work tirelessly to find a cure by securing a perfect match. As a result, they may find themselves perpetually caught in a cycle of working to attain that or female desire and feeling high once it is temporarily achieved. But of course, when the match turns out not to be a good one, the high is often followed by a crushing low. All of which can play out over a few hours or a much longer period of time. When self-esteem is lacking, it is tempting to outsource a sense of self through associating with an idealized match. Unfortunately, until self-love is present within, true love and care from outside evade.

As a general rule of thumb, the more obsessed a person may be about obtaining a partner or finding new romantic attention, in a quest for happiness, it is the more depleted and inadequate they may feel within their own lives.

It is more important to build self-love. As an individual, it is best to cultivate an appreciation of one’s life. Self-love is a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological and spiritual growth. Self-love is dynamic; it grows by the actions that mature us. When we act in ways that expand self-love in us, we begin to accept much better our weaknesses as well as our strengths, have less need to explain away our short-comings, have compassion for ourselves as human beings struggling to find personal meaning, are more centered in our life purpose and values, and expect living fulfillment through our own efforts.

Steps to self-love and happiness:

  • Take your happiness into your own hands. Take ownership and responsibility for your happiness. On a daily basis, make the choice to be happy, regardless of the circumstances of life; find a reason to be thankful and to smile.
  • Create a happiness scale. Check in at the end of the day to see how happy you were today, compared to yesterday. What things made you happy? What things upset you or threw you off? Watch for patterns and correct as necessary.
  • Put yourself on the priority list. You deserve happiness in your life. Don’t let negative self-talk sabotage your happiness. Before you can ever find true happiness in your life, you need to embrace and accept the idea that you are worthy of happiness.
  • Discover your purpose and passion in life. When we feel like we are connected to our purpose and are living a purpose-driven life, happiness will follow. Your sense of worth will shoot through the roof and you will feel more connected to your soul.
  • Make a commitment to take better care of yourself. Eat better, exercise more, give something up, and get more sleep. Being more rested is just one tiny adjustment that can greatly affect your mood and level of happiness.

Dr Miller is Health Psychologist at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital.

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