Happiness, time for a withdrawal?
Happiness is very subjective and hard to define. What makes one person happy does not make everyone happy ( I am positively unhappy if someone suggests we take a ride on a roller coaster but suggest an evening of Elvis music....I'm ecstatic) . You probably know what makes you happy, be it Elvis or a roller coaster ride, or an evening with a good friend. The chances are money has very little to do with the happy moments in your life.
Can you make yourself happy? I can, most days. I have a wonderful repository of beautiful memories that I dip into when required.
Unfortunately we’re not always good at recognising when we’re happy and living in that moment. We do seem to be quite good though, at remembering the less than wonderful things and trotting them out in our heads, often.
Which can give them a bigger place than they deserve in our memories.
Research on Depression
Research on *managing severe depression is quite clear: dwelling on what is wrong makes you feel worse and reinforces the tendency towards more depression. Talking repeatedly about what ails you makes it worse. Therapy which focusses on your problems, on what is wrong with your life, is unhelpful.
That doesn't mean that we shouldn't try to take back some control over events in lives, and work on our issues, but it does mean that maybe we should be more solution focussed rather then dwelling on only negative things from the past.
Some new research on happiness has recently been published which supports this view. Professor Sedekedes of Southampton university has been looking at the effect nostalgia has on our happiness levels. He describes nostalgia as the "perfect internal politician, connecting the past with the present, pointing optimistically to the future."
I like that definition. To make myself feel better I have long practised dipping into my memory bank and drawing out something to savour again, which makes me smile. I'm lucky; I have masses in that particular bank account and am very careful to make regular small deposits to keep it topped up.
By the way, the other conclusion he reached is that firms are wrong to cut back on Christmas parties as Christmas parties can sustain morale for a long time. That gets my vote. Go party on the advice of a professor!
Here’s my tip for the coming weeks. You know how to make yourself feel sad – think sad things. You know how to make yourself feel better, think happy things! It’s as complicatedly simple as that. Like everything you need to practise and retrain your brain from it’s habitual path of dwelling on what went wrong. As you finish up your week each Friday ask yourself:
How many good things have happened to me this week?
How many times have I smiled?
What makes me feel good?
My motto has always been 'celebrate the good things in life whenever you can, because the bad stuff comes unbidden.' And if you can do that, you'll have a healthy bank balance of happiness to draw upon when needed.
Want to know more? Take a look at Nostalgia Makes You Happy
*Check out ‘Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy for Depression‘ by Segal, Williams & Teasedale
Jane C Woods is the creator of RenewYou, a one day personal development course for women licensed to experienced trainers across the world. The next licensing event is in London in February. Find out more here.