Happiness is an addiction in our society. We seek that high over and over, seldom finding the fix, but persistently trying to experience that feeling. We pursue happiness by buying material possessions, zoning out, consuming too much food; the list is endless.
But what if the quest for happiness is precisely what holds us back from feeling satisfied with our life? Maybe waiting for something external to change in order to feel fulfilled is the reason we struggle to find fulfillment. Changing something so fundamental about our belief system isn’t always easy, but there are a few ways to start a journey toward acceptance, and thereby, contentment.
1. Remember that there are no "bad" feelings.
Our society has this mistaken belief that certain feelings are negative and must be avoided. We look for a way to stop pain, sadness, anger, grief and a raft of other emotions. Whether we do this with drugs and alcohol or meditation, the action is the same; we attempt to somehow rid ourselves from those feelings which society deems wrong. We squash what arises while we scramble toward feeling better. The problem with this is that if we avoid the uncomfortable emotions, we limit our capacity to experience the feelings we seek.
When we feel everything that surfaces within completely, we start to access inspired states of bliss. Without exploring our darkest depths, we are unable to attain states of abandoned joy. The more we constrict and contort ourselves to avoid discomfort, the less we give ourselves permission to expand into authentic living.
2. Face it rather than fake it.
Sh*t happens. Yes, it's a total cliché and we hear this bandied around constantly, but it’s very true. Life isn’t a bed of roses. Life is full of lessons sent to teach us what we need to learn about ourselves. Avoiding these lessons by pushing away uncomfortable feelings only prolongs the journey. Immersing ourselves in the feelings that derail us can move us through them and out the other side far more productively than pretending that everything is peachy.
Positivity is great when it's appropriate, but if you constantly have to tell yourself to “fake it til you make it,” then perhaps this strategy isn’t working for you. Integrity means honoring where you are at all times without having to don the mask of positivity. Rather than plastering on the fake smile and saying everything is OK, get real and own your feelings.
3. Hold others in their feelings of discomfort.
So often when people cry or express sadness we tend to seek solutions or offer a hug to calm them down. All this does is reflect our discomfort in witnessing another person experience painful emotions. By doing so, we negate their process and essentially indicate to them that they are only acceptable to us when they are less expressive.
Shutting down the feelings of another by providing them with answers only reflects the ways in which we tend to shut down ourselves. Sitting with another in pain without having to somehow change the situation can be an act of generosity. Reflect inward when you find yourself wanting to fix them and inquire as to why you feel compelled to solve their situation. Letting others move through their emotions with presence and compassion is another way to accept the range of feelings that you experience, without judgment.
4. Know that possessions won’t fulfill you.
As a society in which possessions and consumerism are revered, we tend to think that the more we have the happier we will become. Very often, though, this only results in disappointment. The belief that material goods are the solution to our dissatisfaction in life is the cause of vast sadness. We're told that if we are financially secure we should be satisfied, so many of us buy more and more, getting ourselves deeper and deeper into debt while we wait for the happiness bug to bite us.
“Retail therapy” is not therapeutic. In fact, those who have more are often the most dissatisfied with their lives. While we wait to feel good after a purchase, eventually we realize the pleasure is short lived. Avoiding feelings by owning more will never fill the gaps we feel. Resisting impulse purchases to feel better and, instead, feeling whatever comes up with courage and authenticity could change emotional experiences, rendering us better equipped to accept difficult feelings.
Changing a mindset isn’t easy, but it can be done. Quitting the elusive quest for happiness and living an authentic life could change our levels of contentment. Working on deepening human relationships and sharing our innermost truths might create a platform where all feelings are equal. Living in truth could be the greatest gift we give to ourselves, and to those around us.