Sunday, July 17, 2016 8:37:04 AM Australia/Sydney

What Happiness Is (REALLY)

Life can be very dull, and if you're looking for happiness in all the wrong places it can be downright painful.

You may find yourself comparing your own life to those of other people and coming to the conclusion that somehow yours is not glamorous or exciting enough.

This is understandable, because nobody really shows you what their life is like; they show you what they want you to see. In this competitive world it’s hard not to fall into the trap of assuming that in order to be happy you must live an exceptional life.

Many of my over-achieving (and burnt out) clients come wielding the catch-phrase ‘mediocrity is not an option’; yet they are misguided about happiness and its causes.

The fact is life is dull, mundane and ordinary most of the time for everybody (not just you!) So the next time you get caught up in telling yourself what you ‘should’ be doing, remember these important snippets of advice:

ONE: Don’t Believe Everything You Read

Think everyone else is having a wow of a time while you’re slobbing around in your trackies? Think again. What you see on Facebook is a highly edited, glossed-up version of a life that does not really exist.

Happiness posturing is rampant on social media, with people posting what they had for lunch (as if any of the rest of us actually care) and waiting around for validation in the form of ‘likes’.

Do you really think you’re missing out on some amazing secret to life that everybody else seems to be clued into? You're not. You’re just seeing what other people what you to see; a mental construct; an image.

Whenever my husband and I invite people over he spends about 2 hours madly cleaning the house beforehand. Amid frantic spray-and-wipes, he pants: ‘We can’t let people see how we REALLY live!’

Sound familiar? You may be surprised at just how imperfect the lives of your friends and family really are. Life is messy and most of us muddle along spilling food down our tops and tripping over items that have been left on the floor, but we’re all doing the best we can.

TWO: Learn to Say No

Myths about the true causes of happiness

Another reason why people tend to ‘should’ themselves is in relation to their obligations to other people. Do you find it hard to say no when you’re asked to do a favour?

We all like to help out and it’s great to be a compassionate person. But sometimes you have to give to yourself and that means stepping back from your perceived duties and obligations, and from the image of yourself that you want to project to others.

If you’re a bit of a perfectionist this will be a challenge for you – but definitely one that is worth pursuing. Once you start setting boundaries you’ll realize that the sky doesn’t fall in if you say no sometimes. You don’t have to be ‘everybody’s everything.’

Listen To This Podcast:

(music byLongzijun)

THREE: It’s Okay to Be You

My client Jenny came to see me because she felt unmotivated in life. She was in a fortunate position to be retired as she and her husband had enough savings to not need to work.

In her first session Jenny began to describe the ‘fantastic’ lifestyles all her friends were enjoying. One was training for a triathlon; another was attending weekly art classes and was about to exhibit some of her works in a local show.

‘Why aren’t I doing these kinds of things?’ she said. I asked her: ‘do you WANT to do these things?’ Further exploration revealed that contrary to what she had originally thought, Jenny was, in fact, very satisfied with her ordinary life; she loved pottering around the house, reading novels and just living a peaceful existence with her husband and family.

Yet she believed this was somehow wrong; that she needed to be doing more, because that’s what other people around her were doing. You’re always going to have an idea about what you want to achieve in the future and who you want to become. That’s doesn’t mean who you are right now is not acceptable.

Stop comparing yourself to other people and appreciate yourself for who you are right now. Take notice of the little things in your life, like a steaming cup of coffee in the morning or sitting with your family in the sun on a lovely day.

It’s these little things, not the so-called big-ticket items that make your life special. So you can give yourself permission to stop looking for happiness in all the wrong places and live an ordinary life in a relaxed and peaceful way.

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