Being Happy Is Your Choice
Self help to a better life
In a world where so many people are struggling with life the idea of happiness or lack of it becomes important. The popular perception in the world is often that I deserve to be happy. If I am unhappy it is because of the unfortunate situation that I find myself in. A sense of helplessness develops and this can and often leads to depression.
Attribution Bias is the way we protect ourselves when we are in a bad emotional place. Here we make excuses for our situation by blaming other or the situation we happen to find ourselves in for what is happening to us. Instead of looking at our own behaviour we protect our fragile ego by attributing what is happening to us as circumstances beyond our control- a rather futile exercise. Behaviour modification is a counselling strategy that makes logical sense. In this approach I accept responsibility for my own happiness.
In many of the counseling books on the market the authors emphasize the need for a person to choose to be happy. In the Bible the Apostle Paul says, “I have learned to be content in whatever situation I find myself in”. (Phillipians 4:11
One of the best books expressing this concept is in fact called “Happiness is a Choice” and deals specifically with how to treat depression. (Minirth, F.B. and Meier, P.D.) While they combine Biblical and Psychological concepts the recent book by John Gray (Why Mars and Venus Collide) also emphasizes the need to accept responsibility for your own situation.
In their book Meier and Minirith give 27 suggestions on how to find lifelong happiness. These include: Change the way you talk to yourself (positive self talk); do not deny your feelings, accept them and then concentrate on your behaviour; develop new interests and activities; work on developing new friends; spend time in the Word; leave judgment to God and stop trying to punish or get even with others; learn to laugh; etc.
From a personal perspective I would suggest the following five:
1. It is important to find a place or activity that you enjoy and make a commitment to do it or go there on a regular basis. Don’t wait for this to happen but plan it into your life and put it in your diary on a weekly if not day to day basis. Sometimes we get so busy we forget to make time for ourselves. A regular visit to a nearby Bird hide in the Nahoon Estuary Nature reserve is such a place for me.
2. Do something for someone else on a regular basis. Joy comes from what you do and not only from what others do for you. This may mean buying a bunch of flowers for my wife or giving someone who is poor something to help them.
3. Read for fun but also to learn something new. The local library is a great source of information and in recent times I have spent more time reading about places, people and activities than fiction. At the same time it is sometimes good to just read for fun.
4. If you are a believer, as I am, spend time in the Word, in meditation, in prayer and in worship. Find a place to serve God. Again it is more profitable to serve, rather than waiting to be served. People who help others often benefit more from the experience than the one being helped.
5. Plan some big event at least once a year of every second year to look forward to. It is easy to get in a rut and just let life slip by. Before you know it the years have passed and nothing great has happened. Like those who go fishing, half the fun is in the preparation and anticipation.So sign up for that workshop, plan that outing, and life will be the better for it. If you plan nothing then probably nothing is going to happen.
At the same time when life seems helpless don't hesitate to go for help. A good counselor is vital when life gets too difficult to sort things out yourself. The statistics on depression are mind boggling and yet answers can be found and help is available.