Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Saturday

December 28, 2013

Mental Wellness: After holidays, why are you not happy yet?

Can you believe it’s over?

I’m not sure what your “it” is, but it is probably over. The build up to Christmas, family celebrations and the whole month of December is quite pronounced in my mind. With 2014 around the corner, most writers are talking about your goals. I think they miss the point.

Goals are fine, but there is a flawed mentality that accompanies most goal-setting. This is the typical formula: I am not happy with (insert something here) so I will change that by doing (insert goal here) I will then be happier.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t work. It’s based on a marketing formula that is meant to create the need for more, rather than contentment.

“I will be happy when I ...”

In our society, marketing continually has us ask the question, “Are you happy?” Usually the seller is creating an appetite that we didn’t know existed. At the core we’re saying that we are not fine how we are. Instead, happiness is something that will be acquired once something happens that is outside of us. If this is true, we’re in for some trouble because we have very little control over things outside of us.

Instead, something else usually happens

In my counseling practice, I often see folks who reach their goals and still are unhappy. What happened? They thought that the unhappiness was coming from their weight, their smoking, their parenting, or from their spouse, but now that source has changed and nothing feels better.

The identified “source” of the pain or unhappiness is misplaced. Instead, those manifestations of unhappiness are eliminated and replaced by new sources of pain. So what’s the real source?

It’s much, much deeper

Acceptance of oneself, exactly how you are is counter-intuitive. What if I never reach a goal again? What if I get lazy? What if I …? When we are able to see ourselves as deserving humans that still have flaws and need improvement, but that we are loved how we are, that is where freedom starts. As well, genuine contentment comes from accepting our life situation and still deciding to be happy.

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