Finding Happiness in Challenging TimesIt is quite common to lose our moorings when we find ourselves engulfed in the despair of divorce. The range of emotions, especially in the early stages, can include such profound pain that it pushes out everything good we know about ourselves with its bleakness. It is precisely for this reason that being able to regain a grip on solid ground is so important.
Happiness can be a fleeting thing to catch. Most of us learn happiness as a child, when we are being showered with love or the recipient of gifts or recognition. Unless we had the misfortune of growing up in emotional austere surroundings, happiness came to us not only as a gift, but also as an entitlement. We didn’t have to do anything to get it.
Despite this, as a child our emotions carried us 180 degrees away from happiness – usually for no good reason. But, like a winter cold spell, the experience always passed, and we soon revisited wonderland.
As adults we have a lot to learn about happiness. Happiness is not an entitlement, but it is freely available to all who partake. No one can give us happiness – nor can they take it away from us, without our agreement. There are no universal truths that can be simply obtained in order to master the art of happiness.
Consider, one candle can light a thousand other candles without diminishing its own life. In that respect it is similar to love and happiness – it is something if you give it away you end up having more. Abundance. One of the most profound principles of life.
“It isn’t what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about,” is a quote from Dale Carnegie. I like this idea because it offers the possibility that I may be able to find genuine happiness during challenging times. I used to think that anyone can be happy when everything is going right, until I began observing some people who were decidedly unhappy even during the best of times.
I was inspired reading Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning. As you know, he was an Austrian neuroscientist who was placed in a Nazi concentration camp. In that horrid situation he was able to discover the importance of finding meaning in even the most brutal circumstances. He realized that his captors had control over his body, and his very life, but they could not control his ability to find happiness in daily life. That kind of took all the joy out of my own pity parties!
It is important for me to note that the power of Frankl’s experience did not have an instantaneous effect. Rather it attached itself like a parasite and clung on tenaciously until I had enough other experiences to weave together into a solid tapestry.
Trust that we on the path of our own personal transformation, and that even if we get off our path for the moment, it doesn’t mean we are lost. We have a tendency to think that our personal growth occurs in blinding flashes, and tend to be ignorant of how many good things we’ve done in our lives that make these blinding flashes possible.
Happiness can become a neglected commodity when we find ourselves in difficult times – like going through a divorce. Recapturing happiness is a good example of a sign that we have begun the process of healing. Yet it can seem daunting to accomplish.
The very moment in which one’s whole life may seem at risk offers a unique opportunity for growth. The worst that has ever happened might hold the seeds of great joy and happiness. It depends only upon our willingness to calm down and find that small voice inside that can help talk us through the conflict.
A marvelous place to begin is to be able to reclaim joy and happiness. It is there for the taking. However, in the initial stages it can be difficult to summon strength from within. It is critical that we find friends to support us in finding our inner strength than it is to find someone who only commiserate in our misery.
Shawn Achor, in his presentation on TED Talks, tells us that conventional wisdom holds that if we work hard we will be more successful, and when we are more successful we will be happier. He tells us it is really the other way around. Happiness fuels success, and he tells us this has been borne out by rigorous research in psychology and neuroscience, management studies, and the bottom lines of organizations around the globe. That is some exciting news.
Some of the principles he outlines to support his claims include:
1. The Tetris Effect.
Retraining our brains to spot patterns and possibilities so we can seize opportunities wherever we look.
2. Social Investment:
Investment in our friends, peers and family provides a social support network when challenges arise.
3. The Twenty-Second Rule: With limited willpower we need to make small energy adjustments to re-route the path of least resistance, and build better habits.
4. Falling Up.
Find the path out and up from negative events in our lives.
5. The Fulcrum and the Lever:
Adjusting our mindset (the fulcrum) may give us more power (the lever) when we control how we think about the world.
6. The Zorro Circle:
We can regain control in the midst of chaos by bringing our circle in focus on small, manageable goals until we get stronger.
7. The Happiness Advantage:
Capitalize on positivity to improve productivity and performance.
Being positive really is a choice we can make that gives us a more powerful life.
For more information about how collaborative family practice can ease your burden in difficult times, contact any collaborative professional.