Most people have enough common sense to mind the weather forecast. You can see that on the motorway when all the cars are slowing down as soon as it starts raining heavily. I remember back when we had a sailing boat, we wouldn’t go out when the winds were so high that the risk factor out-weight the pleasure that could be gained. Of course, there are most likely some exceptions, some people are dare devils who zoomed along the motorway with high-speed totally ignoring the conditions.
Most people however ‘drive to the conditions’. If the weather is particularly nasty, they might even elect to stay at home. It makes perfect sense considering that driving in stormy weather is not pleasurable, it’s dangerous, one’s field of vision is impaired, and you might not get very far. (more…)
Today I want to focus on happiness. Why? I am glad you asked. Most clients, when they come to counselling, they have as a goal to feel better. When asked, they respond “I want to be happy”. Although the therapist in me cringes when I hear that, because happiness can be so many things and is so different for everybody, I do understand people’s strive to happiness. Who wouldn’t want to be happy?
I am always amazed by the common perception that traumatic experiences from the past or traumatic experiences in the present should be overcome in a swift movement of “Getting over it” or “Letting it go”. In a way, what people are saying is that OOOps, even though something really bad happened to you, you can’t change it, so you might as well put a smile on your face and get on with your life.
Bless them, they don’t know how to respond to trauma, shock, or grief wether it affects another person or themselves. They rather turn to the next best thing: getting a prescription for an antidepressant (alcohol, food, drugs, or ….). As if it’s an illness that, for example, you have been raped, been given a life-threatening diagnosis, lost a loved one, live in poverty, or your family has been wiped out by war or by a natural disaster.
On the danger that I am stepping on dangerous ground here, I am giving some pointers to the difficult area of parenting. Not that I am an expert in that field. Not at all! However, I know that many people worry about their parenting style. They are concerned whether they do it right by their children and end up with lots of self-blame for not getting it right. I’ve been reading the book ‘Authentic Happiness’ (by M. Seligman, 2002, Free Press). And it has a section on how to build positive emotions in children!
“Depression really spirals downward because a depressed mood makes negative memories come to mind more easily. These negative thoughts in turn set off a more depressed mood, which in turn makes even more negative thoughts accessible, and so on. Breaking the downward spiral is a critical skill for the depressed patient to learn.” (Authentic Happiness, M. Seligman, 2002, Free Press, page 210).
Building happiness is, however, not just important for depressed people, research is conclusive that everyone can improve on their level of happiness by checking whether you have ‘all the ingredients for a happy life’ in your tool box. Here are some ideas:
How can we link understanding how happiness is reflected in a person’s well being to the well being of society? Positive Psychology suggests that happy people have a great influence on society. Through their interest in and support of others, they make up a large number of volunteers, they are more likely to have a pro-peace attitude, and are overall more co-operative.