I realise that happiness means very different things to different people, however when I recently read a blog about the path to happiness I was quite shocked.
The writer suggested that in order to be happy we need to build a picture of our perfect life and list the things we need to be happy. They could be an Aston Martin, a high-flying career, weight loss or children.
Now I’m all in favour of setting goals and having a vision or direction in life, but as I’m sure you’re aware, happiness doesn’t come from a relationship, a job or a car, but from inside us.
You may be thinking, that’s easy for me to say, but how do I actually achieve it?
The answer is to focus on 3 things – thoughts, feelings and your attitude to life.
Thoughts – We have tens of thousands of thoughts a day, that pop into our heads. some are positive, some are negative and some are “what shall I have for tea’. We don’t have control over those, but we can choose not to engage in the negative ones
Feelings – Our feelings are the result of our thoughts. In the same way as thoughts, they will pass and be replaced by a different feeling. So if at anytime you are feeling uncomfortable, sit with it and remember this will pass and you are still okay.
Attitude to life – This is about having the courage and confidence to go for life and take risks even when you feel insecure
When you work on all of these, you’ll find a greater contentment and happiness. Then you can still aim for that Aston Martin!
It’s quite natural to want or desire something in our lives; whether that’s world peace or a pair of Jimmy Choo’s, isn’t important.
But why we think we want them, and what we believe they will give us, does matter.
The Oxford Dictionary defines the verb “want” as “to have a desire to possess or do something”. and the noun as “a lack or deficiency of something”.
That feeling of desiring or lacking something can have a profound effect on our happiness and confidence.
When I started to think about the things I wanted or wished for (after world peace obviously!). I realised there was quite a lot, and that wanting things quite often popped into my thoughts.
At the time of writing this blog I came up with my current top 6:
I want to book a family holiday
I wish I could have a cleaner every day
I want an All Saints top that appeared in my browser
I wish I was nearer my friend whose Dad has just died
I want to finish that open bag of Werthers sweets
I wish there was more time in a day
Some of my wants aren’t achievable, such as more time in the day. Others aren’t exactly a necessity, like a cleaner every day and some are just greed!
It did make me think, though, about how these thoughts might be affecting my self-esteem and happiness. Also, do I really want those things, or am I just being manipulated by marketing?
When I started to reflect on these questions, I realised that wanting things was often my natural reaction to a situation. For example:
Feeling overwhelmed – I want a holiday or a cleaner
Need to earn more money – I want a quick fix marketing programme
A friend buys a new outfit – I wish I could have a new outfit too
Feeling sad or guilty – I want to do something to help others
Feeling bored – I want that bag of sweets
not all wanting is a bad thing, but perhaps rather than just wanting a distraction, a quick fix or to feel better. I could focus on my emotions and real needs in that moment, which is far more likely to boost my confidence and self-esteem than reaching for a credit card.
My tips for you would therefore be:
Take some time to think about the things you’re wanting. Question yourself, why you want them and what they are really trying to solve. Is there a different way you could meet that need?
I found it an interesting exercise, although it hasn’t stopped me lusting for those Jimmy Choos!!
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Some of the clients I see appear to have a great life, and have achieved all the things they ‘should’ have according to society.
But behind the perfect window dressing of social media, the way they feel is often imperfect and unhappy.
We see marketing messages all around us that reinforce the myth that happiness comes when you achieve, or have, certain things in your life.
This myth has us continually striving for more, bigger and better, rather than looking at why we don’t feel happy.
If you are in a good place in your life, perhaps you have a house, a loving family and good job, but still feel unsettled and that something’s not quite right. Then this is the time to look at your mindset and start to make some changes.
Feeling emotional ups and downs is a normal part of life, however if you are feeling that it’s more than that, then the good news is that it is possible to change.
By admitting to some of the ways you sabotage your happiness you can begin that process. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
Focusing on the wrong things. If you spend time focusing on negative or irrelevant dramas in your life, you miss the opportunity to focus on the more important elements that boost your happiness
Let go of your expectations for the day. If you have a picture in your head of how every day should look and be, you are likely to be disappointed. Be open to the day and let go of what you think ‘should’ happen
‘What if’ worrying. This means you are constantly worrying about negative outcomes and what could happen. Generally it’s a waste of your time and energy. Try to keep your mind focused on the present moment instead and enjoy what’s happening now
Living in the past. Is another worry that pulls you away from the present moment. You can’t change it, and going over it again robs you of any current joy.
Don’t always believe your thinking. We don’t have control over the thoughts that come into our heads, but that doesn’t mean they are always true. It does however, mean we can choose how we respond to them. Letting the negative ones go and not engaging with them will lift your mood
Making the safe and easy choice. You may believe that this keeps you safe from being hurt. However it also stops you trying new things, making changes and growing mentally. Challenge yourself at times to step out of your comfort zone
Have a very happy day and please send this onto anyone you think maybe struggling with their happiness.