Most #Happiness Advice is Unhelpful
February 17, 2012
— advice, meditation
Reading the latest happiness guru on the ABC News website, I was struck by how unhelpful most happiness advice is. This expert’s takeaways included:
- change your thinking pattern
- think more positively
- check your attitude
It’s not that I disagree. Those are the thing people need to do, but it’s as helpful as telling an obese person to eat less. If it was that easy, the person would have done it already.
We know we need to change our thought patterns. The question is HOW, especially in light that many people have tried to will themselves to think differently to no avail.
There is only a few techniques that I know of that will actually move the needle on the HOW question, but I’ll have to join the ranks of people giving advice to tell you! Hopefully, though, it will be more helpful to actual do.
1. Meditation. It’s the only thing that has consistently slowed the rambling monkey mind to a point of feeling peace. It takes discipline to continue to do it, but not that much I like to just count to 100. Sit on a few pillows on the floor, legs crossed in front of you. Concentrate on your breadth, and on the out breadth, count from 0-100. If your mind wanders, just observe what you’re doing, label it ‘thinking’ in your head, and focus back on your breadth. You don’t need to scold yourself and pass judgement. Just return to breathing. 100 breadths in the morning, and you’ll develop a good starting practice. You’ll feel less trigger, more in control, and more settled.
2. Writing. Are you anxious, nervous, scared, or don’t know how you’re feeling? Write about it. Steam of consciousness is fine. Just put it down on paper. You’ll find you dive deeper into the problem and are able to metabolize it better.
3. Reading. Find out what others are doing about happiness. It will spur your own thinking. I just finished Richard Rohr’s “Falling Upwards”. That’s a good start.
4. Talking. Whether it’s a friend, priest, or therapist, have someone you can work through what you’re feeling. If its someone untrained, make sure they’re a good listener and good at asking questions. You don’t need someone to cheerlead or enable you. You need someone to ask you good thought-provoking questions.
5. Talk to your doctor. You MAY…may…need some basic medication. There are no happy pills. You will have to do the hard work yourself. However, some medications can reduce anxiety enough so that you’re in a more productive state. People say on a 10 point scale, medications may lift your mood one point.
Now, your probably saying, ‘Really? Is that it? I’m underwhelmed.” And yes, individually, each technique is quite basic. That’s the point…to utilize skills and behaviors you already know how to do (we all know how to breathe.) Taken together though, they are potent. They will move the needle. You will feel better.
How do you climb Everest? One step at a time, and these suggestions are hopefully some very familiar steps you can employ right away.