Who Controls YOUR Happiness?
by: Dr. David Thomas
Where does happiness fit on a scale of 1 to 10 in your life?
Is that a silly question? Who’s in control of your happiness??
Well, if you want to maintain continued happiness in light of difficult moments then start by identifying your thinking. Often this means that some of the way you think about certain things may need to change.
Change is difficult for many people, especially when it involves changing a behavior that you have practiced over and over again (such as drinking, smoking, overeating, etc.) And with the change often comes strong emotion.
But human beings have a wonderful ability to change how they feel by changing how they think. So how do you know what feelings to change, and aren’t we SUPPOSED to feel certain emotions in light of the situations we experience?
The answer is yes, and no. Yes, it is inevitable that we will experience emotions in relation to life events. And no: how we feel is determined by how we think about these events.
Feelings are like the weather, an ongoing part of life, which will change when the right conditions present themselves. They are neither good nor bad, they just are.
Rain exists because atmospheric conditions are right for this event to happen.
Feelings exist because of the thoughts you have in relation to the events in your life. Certain thoughts create uncomfortable feelings and other types of thoughts create feelings of joy, contentment, and happiness.
The question is not whether you should have feelings, but rather are the feelings I’m experiencing helping me to achieve my goal(s) or are they hindering this process?
Generally speaking, feelings of anger, anxiety, depression, and guilt tend to produce behaviors that hinder our life goals. That’s why we want to change them. Not because they are intrinsically good or bad, not because we shouldn’t feel them, but simply because they tend to interfere with having our wants and desires met.
Like the weather, if conditions are right, it rains. If the thoughts are right for anxiety, you will experience anxiety. If the thoughts are right for depression, then depression it is. Fortunately for all of us, altering atmospheric conditions is much more difficult than altering our thoughts.
Although changing thoughts is not easy at times, it is much more controllable when you are taught how, then practice.
Anger, anxiety, depression, and guilt are what we refer to as the 4 Blocks to Happiness. Anxiety, for instance, tends to produce behaviors such as avoidance, isolation, self-medicating (drinking, drugging, and overeating) and many negative physiological changes.
These may include lack of concentration, memory loss, muscle tension, headaches, diarrhea or other bowel disorders. Unless you find benefit in experiencing these symptoms, these are why we want to change these feelings. They are uncomfortable, and not goal oriented.
Anxiety does not help us get what we want. Finally, feelings are similar to a weather barometer. They are the gauge to whether we are on track, enjoying our lives, achieving our goals, keeping us out of conflict with others, and preserving our life and limb.
We WANT to experience emotion. Lots of intense, as well as, moderate feelings. “It is not the idea that my son is doing well and enjoying his life, but truly how I feel about him enjoying his life. It is the happiness I feel watching him grow, mature, and find meaning to his existence.” The feeling is the reward for our action, it is what we as humans seek in our day-to-day experience.
Feelings are also the alarm bell, telling us to slow down, seek consult, take another look, or simply work harder. Sometimes we feel we are on a roller coaster: it can be exhilarating and it can also be frightening. You judge for yourself, but remember whatever you are feeling you can change.
Expect progress rather than perfection and the journey will be much more manageable.
Dr. David L. Thomas, LMHC
About The Author
Dr. Thomas is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor with a practice in Tampa, FL. He has been counseling people to feel better for over 21 years. This article is posted at www.stressgroup.com. He is also the co-author of Quit Smoking-Be Happy!—see www.quitsmoking-behappy.com to learn more.
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