Saturday, June 26, 2010

Postponing Happiness

We are all guilty of putting some thing or another off.  We say we'll get to it tomorrow or over the weekend.  Sometimes we do.  Sometimes we don't.  How many of us, though, put off being happy?  Initially you might think this is a ridiculous assertion -- who doesn't want to be happy?  The sooner the better, you might think.  But there are those of us who view happiness as a goal to be achieved -- "I will take this journey, obtain certain things, and when I'm done I will be happy."  Why put it off though?  Happiness isn't a destination.  We don't reach a point in life where things are how we want them to be and then stay there, happily.  Life is constantly changing.  Your happiness doesn't have to.  Happiness is something you do right now, in the present.  Happiness is an attitude, a choice you make in each moment you live.  You can be happy while you work to attain your goals.  You can be happy when you experience a setback.  You can be happy when life is exactly as you want it to be and when it is not.  You don't have to put it off -- you can be happy now.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Inside Out or Outside In?

One thing I've noticed in working with my patients is that they often expect the changes in their lives to begin on the inside.  "Once I'm feeling more confident I'll go on that job interview or try to meet new people."  "Once I stop feeling so anxious in social situations I'll start socializing more."  "When I stop feeling depressed I'll start doing more around the house."  The assumption seems to be that they will begin to feel better and that feeling better will enable them to do the things in life that they would like to do.  Most of us operate under this assumption, at least at times.  How often do we put off doing something until we feel like doing it?  We assume our feelings will drive our behavior.

I'm sure there are instances in which internal change precedes external change.  I believe, however, that doing things in this order is infinitely more difficult and time consuming than it needs to be.  If we insist upon doing things this way we run the risk of never changing at all.  What if we never reach a point where we "feel like" changing our behaviors?  Do we just continue to wait, hoping our emotions will eventually "come around?"

I am a firm believer in going forward with behavioral change in spite of how we feel about it.  Emotions are a valuable source of information but they can hold us back from doing things that are important to us if we allow them to.  "Fake it 'til you make it" and "Feel the fear and do it anyway" are phrases that embody this idea.  If you want to be confident then act confident: walk with your back straight, head up, and shoulders back.  Make eye contact when you talk to people.  Refrain from fidgeting.  Voice your opinion.  Even if you're shaking with fear on the inside you can still behave in a manner that exemplifies confidence.  If you keep practicing, over time an amazing thing will happen: You will begin to feel more confident.  People will respond to the confidence you project and this in turn will reinforce your behavior.  One day, you'll wake up and realize that you're no longer pretending - the confidence you exude is the real thing.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Reflections on a book

I recently read a book called "Happiness is a Serious Problem" by Dennis Prager.  There were a lot of good points in the book but I thought I'd share a few of the ones that stood out most to me.

1. Unhappiness is easy.  It takes work to be happy.

2. Ask, "Will this make me happier?" before engaging in a particular action.  (This may require foregoing immediate pleasure).

3. Try to be happy unless something happens to make you unhappy instead of being unhappy unless something happens to make you happy.

4.  Human beings are never completely satisfied with anything - we always want more.

5. Dissatisfaction does not have to make you unhappy.

6. Being happy does not mean avoiding pain.

7. Expectations lead to unhappiness.

8. Gratitude is the key to happiness.

9. Meaning and purpose are necessary for happiness.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


I don't have much to say -- which is the problem, actually.  I go through these periods of creativity where ideas just come to me and these blog posts practically write themselves.  Then there are times when my mind seems to just take a vacation.  Try as I might, ideas simply don't manifest themselves.  I look for inspiration -- I read about subjects that interest me, I pay attention to current events, I draw upon others' experiences -- but during these slumps even when I become inspired I can't seem to put two thoughts together or to generate a coherent sentence.  There are a lot of things I've been thinking about, it's just that my ideas seem incomplete and I find it impossible to draw any conclusions from them.  So instead of writing about anything meaningful I decided I would write about the fact that I have nothing meaningful about which to write.  I imagine this is just temporary -- I've been feeling a bit stressed lately and that makes it hard for me to think clearly.  Even at work I have difficulty thinking clearly -- I certainly don't do my best work when I'm stressed.  Anyway, I will definitely have more to say later, hopefully some time in the near future...

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