Why Wishing to Be Happier Can Be a Road to Unhappiness
We are a culture driven by the motto more is better. If we turn on the television or glance over at the magazines at the checkout line in any grocery store, we see the sensational “bling” and the “more” we are looking for. Our minds automatically say, “If I just had a bigger house, a partner, more money, a snow cone, etc… then I’d be happy.”
Waltor Landor accurately said, “As soon as we wish to be happier, we are no longer happy.”
Landor’s quote echoes a millennia of teachings that say the same thing. As soon as we are reaching or grasping for something that is outside of this present moment, we get the sense that what we are or have is less than adequate in this moment. Our contentment drifts away and so does the potential for happiness right now.
For example, we could be feeling quite content in the moment and then see the car we’ve been wanting drive by with the thought, “Ahh, I’d feel better if I had that car.” Immediately, we are no longer content with the way things are. Our situation hasn’t changed at all, just a thought of “wanting or needing more” than we currently have has drifted into our minds, followed by feelings of discontent.
What to do: Be on the lookout for this “wanting.” As soon as you notice it, you are in a space of clarity where an opportunity for choosing a new response lies. This is The Now Effect, and we can train our minds to more readily drop into these spaces.
With an attitude of curiosity and non-judgment, we can notice when this is happening and recognize it as a habitual reaction our minds get caught up in. We can also notice the feeling that comes along with it (i.e, despair). This is the conditioned interaction between your thoughts, emotions and body.
You don’t have to buy into it – just become aware of it. When you’re aware of it, you can bring yourself back to the now and recognize that you likely have all you need and in fact, you are likely better off than most on this planet.
Then: Choose to list 5 things you are grateful for in your life in that moment. See what happens. You may not be aware enough to do this each time, but beginning to plant this seed can pave a path toward greater freedom and happiness.
Remember, author and renowned mindfulness teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh says, “There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way.”
As always, please share your thoughts, stories, and questions below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.
Dandelion photo available from Shutterstock.
Goldstein, E. (2012). Why Wishing to Be Happier Can Be a Road to Unhappiness. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 11, 2016, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/mindfulness/2012/05/why-wishing-to-be-happier-may-lead-to-discontent/