Why Lasting Happiness Isn't Worth Chasing... And What To Go For Instead
Do you know that song by Talking Heads, 'Heaven'? In part, it goes like this (I'm humming):
'Heaven is a place A place where nothing Nothing ever happens
Heaven is a place A place where nothing Nothing ever happens There is a party Everyone is there Everyone will leave At exactly the same time.'
(The repetition is important.) I take it to be a song about the impossibility of lasting happiness. Instead, happiness is a transitory, fleeting thing that we often don't even recognise at the time, only in retrospect. As someone wisely put it, happiness isn't a country - you don't get there and stay.
Yet we continue to seek to be happy, and are constantly disappointed. When you think about it, that's a key way that social media keeps us hungry, searching, empty - by showing us confected glimpses of (highly edited) 'happiness,' such as the perfect mind in the perfect body enjoying the perfect holiday with her perfect family... A moment's thought reveals that it's all nonsense, but who these days has time for a moment's thought? (If you'd like to read more about how social media hooks us, try this.)
So we crave something that we know can't be had. And that craving starves us of our ability to focus, to pay attention. Have you noticed, for example, how hard it is to settle down and do one thing, such as read a book, for any length of time these days? Something's changed, and it's changing us.
What might we do instead?
Psychologist Anna Rowley suggests that we develop a clearer sense of what's going on outside us and what's happening inside. We can do this by building up our attention muscles. Next time you're out walking, for example, or in your car, you can name three or four things you see, sense and hear - the greenness of a leaf, maybe, the coolness of that breeze, the father holding his son's hand on the street as you pass by.
The point is to develop our ability to see clearly in the moment, while at the same time noticing the shift between our inner self and the external world - and in doing so, beginning to develop our ability to distinguish between what is (the world as it is, out there) and what we feel about it (irritation, anxiety, disappointment, envy and also joy, anticipation, excitement). He who worries, suffers twice - and the more we can distinguish between what's real and what we're worrying about, often unnecessarily, the closer we'll approach that sense of being in the world that, oddly enough, really can generate those moments of... happiness!
If you are anxious or worry more than you'd like, call me on 0423 793887. Clinical Hypnotherapy, which incorporates therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, can really make a difference.