Why can't I just be happy?

kelliemontgomery's picture

"Why can't I just be happy"? I hear this question quite often...and more often than not it's not a question, but a statement expressed with frustration and at times despair. Approximately 20 years ago most psychological researchers thought it was nut's to research, define or measure 'happiness'. Today there is something called the Positive Psychology movement where researchers are embracing the discovery of what factors contribute to our happiness. Many studies have been spearheaded by Professor Edward Diener at the University of Illinois, who is considered a world leader in the field of happiness research. He has found that overall the best predictor of happiness are people's values. People who value money, power, fame and good looks are less likely to be happy then people who value compassion, cooperation and willingness to make the world a better place.
Diener's research showed that once a person's "basic needs are met, additional income does little to raise your sense of satisfaction with life". Interestingly it was found that people who make $50,000 a year are about as happy as people who make 5 million a year. Along with researcher Martin Seligman, Diener found that those with with the highest levels of happiness and the fewest signs of depression were those who had strong ties to friends and family and commitment to spending time with them. Diener has said "It is important to work on social skills, close interpersonal ties and social support in order to be happy."

Take a moment right now to evaluate your personal values, by asking yourself what is important to you and why. So often many of us simply want to feel loved, appreciated, listened to and understood. Now, see if you can ask yourself if you value these qualities in yourself as well. For example, do you believe it is important for you to also appreciate, listen to and understand others as well? To provide what you, yourself need to others often has the additional effect of drawing those who value the same qualities.

Creating and maintaining healthy attachments to others is not easy. It our first relationship, our relationship with our parents/caregivers that leaves a strong resonance with us and can determine our level of comfortability with others later in life. Even if these relationships were anxiety-provoking, toxic, harmful or perhaps scary the strong drive we as human beings have to connect to others never really goes away. In fact, creating strong attachments with others has been documented to be very important to our overall level of happiness. So often I talk with people who have very conflicted relationships with their families, and yet, many of them are often able to identify one person who made a difference in their lives by seeing and treating them differently. This person may have been a teacher, a friend, relative, therapist or online supporter. It is these special relationships that can have a corrective quality by repairing our relationships with others and ultimately with ourselves.
Our relationships are a critical component to our happiness; in addition I would also like to encourage you to think about what additional factors make you happy. Try to recall moments where you experienced positive feelings, it may be with others, it may be alone, or engaging in an activity that you enjoy. Being able to connect to what we do enjoy now or have appreciated in past, tells us how we can continue to create it.

Warmly,
Kellie Montgomery< LMFT

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