Many people today have given up on finding love, fulfillment and happiness. And yet, people still continue to watch romantic movies, featuring passionate love and someone finding real joy in their professional pursuits. So, deep down, most people probably are still longing for such things.
But when one starts thinking seriously about achieving happiness, the mind often focuses on the negative: there are dirty dishes in the sink, you never learned how to play the guitar and, sure, you may have a nice partner, but that person isn’t exactly a passionate lover. It would seem that something will always be missing. So how can happiness be discovered when the human mind tends to focus on what’s lacking? In the book “If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy?” by Raj Raghunathan, he talks more about the sins we have to be wary about that stand in the way of happiness.
You’re a smart person, right? So why do you always end up falling into the same depressing ruts?
It might have something to do with the seven deadly sins. Now, we’re not talking about biblical sins, but rather the bad habits that get in the way of happiness.
The first sin is the human habit of devaluing happiness.
Despite our desire to be happy, we tend to ignore happiness as a goal and not give it the priority it deserves.
The author, along with fellow professors Sunaina Chugani from City University of New York and Ashesh Mukherjee from McGill University, conducted a study to determine what things people associate with happiness.
Participants were asked to make three wishes for things that they believed would lead to happiness. The researchers found that generally, people wish for things like money, fame and success because they know what they’re getting. Meanwhile, they tended to ignore happiness itself because it seems too abstract a concept to wish for.
But if you think about it, shouldn’t happiness be everyone’s top priority?
Of course different things make different people happy – so before you can prioritize happiness, you need to define it.
Ask yourself what emotion you associate with happiness. This way you can learn to better understand where it comes from. Perhaps you associate happiness with love; if this is the case, your relationship with your partner is probably central to your well-being.
With this in mind, try creating a journal to record all the different things that bring happiness into your daily life. Recall all the memorable moments of happiness and write down what you were doing, who you were with and what led to those positive feelings.
Maybe you were traveling with someone you love, and seeing the world, or maybe you were spending time with your family during the holidays.
Once you have these events written down, you’ll have a clear picture of the kind of things you should be focusing on and making time for in your life, thereby letting in more happiness.
What would you rather have, a brand new BMW or a new friend? This kind of question gets to the heart of the second deadly sin: chasing superiority.
One thing that many people learn in life is that feeling superior to others does not produce happiness.
Yet people continue striving to achieve a feeling of superiority, even making it a goal, and end up unhappily pursuing it for the rest of their life.
In order to feel superior, you must measure yourself against others. If you can do something better than someone else, you’re doing well; if not, you need to improve. The problem with this approach is that it implies that your failure to perform better than someone else makes you a failure.
Sure, it’s natural to feel good about a job well done, but that doesn’t have to lead to the pursuit of a sense of superiority.
Studies show that the more we compare ourselves to others, the less happy we are because it sets us up to obsess over every possible failure and how we look in the eyes of others.
The better path to happiness is to pursue your own flow.
The concept of flow originated with the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who describes it as a blissful state of total immersion in an activity. It could be anything from sports to woodworking or solving a complex puzzle – anything that makes you zone out and lose track of time.
In this state of flow, you can experience perfect focus and pure enjoyment of the moment, which also sets up the ideal conditions to learn a skill.
No matter who you are, finding your flow is deeply satisfying and enjoyable.
So when you’re thinking about what to do with your life, don’t chase a sense of superiority. Rather, find an activity that you love to immerse yourself in and can bring you into the flow.
One of our strongest desires is to connect with others, but one should be careful how one goes about forging human connections.
This leads us to the third deadly sin: desperately seeking love.
An unhealthy desire to connect manifests itself as a desperation for intimacy that includes neediness and avoidance of intimacy altogether, which can often be traced back to the earliest months of our lives. Naturally, this kind of behavior only increases the chances of them being lonely because neediness is not an attractive feature. People tend to be uninterested in things that are easily available, which is why people who are the most desperate for connection often end up alone.
But making human connections definitely makes us happier. And the best way to cultivate meaningful connections is by having an altruistic spirit.
When we help others and make them feel happy, we gain a sense of accomplishment and learn that we can spread happiness. This improves our self-image and makes us more capable of connecting with others, as well as making us more attractive.
And because generosity raises our own happiness levels, it comes very naturally to us. In 2012, researchers handed out treats to 20 toddlers, asking them to share the treats with a puppet. They found that while the toddlers were happy to receive treats, they were even happier after they shared them with the puppet.
Check out my related post: How to solve for happy?