Is Happiness a Unicorn?
Finding happiness…This is what we’re all striving for, right? If you’re not “happy” all the time, then what are you – unhappy? Is this outlook practical for the real world, or will it always leave you disappointed? Especially in veterinary medicine where animals are hurt, complications suck, and people are emotional. Plus, we’re adults and stuff just happens in life. Not all of it is good or in our control. Common sense says there may be more to this oversimplified concept of “finding happiness.”
If you stop to think about it, the concept of happiness is actually pretty confusing. What is it anyway? A mindset, a way of life, a mood? We all know that realistically, nobody is happy all the time. Life has its challenges. One day something great happens and we’re walking on air, the next, we may experience something unfortunate.
Keep This in Mind
Life’s roller coaster of highs and lows may not necessarily mean you’re unhappy. You’re just alive and navigating the world! In life, things happen and even the most positive person will sometimes feel sadness, disappointment, anger, regret, and fear. So, is it even rational to strive to be happy all the time? Probably not! What are we actually searching for? What is a more realistic outlook?
Happy Life vs Meaningful Life
These two ideas seem to overlap quite a bit. Feeling happy can be fleeting; a raise, promotion, wedding, or a vacation. Living a meaningful life tends to be a long-term, all-encompassing state. You continue to work hard on your job and feel good about your efforts. You save and spend money wisely. You work at a healthy marriage, growing and learning as a person.
Happy times can ebb and flow. Pursuing a full, experience-filled, and meaningful life tends to connect the big picture in a more positive way, even considering the inevitable challenges. Viewing your life as meaningful often produces a more content and happier person. Just seeking happiness may be a shallow and unattainable goal that can leave you frustrated, confused, and unsatisfied.
Controlling your Own Happiness
Genetics and life experiences can affect your feelings of happiness. So, you are not always in total control. We all experience different struggles. Some babies are born fussy. Some are content. Some people live with anxiety, physical, and mental health issues. Some are free of these conditions. Some automatically see the positive. Others are naturally negative, perhaps needing to work harder for that positive mindset.
Not to mention, each of our definitions of happiness are totally different! What makes one person happy in a career, marriage, or relationship may not be the same for another. Each individual is writing their own story.
Change your Outlook
If you find yourself feeling negative about life, it might be time for some physical and/or mental stimulation. If career or relationship changes are not working, it may be possible to train your brain to have a more positive outlook. A therapist or coach can also help you self-reflect. Personal growth and change take effort, so be prepared to do your homework.
- Be present and notice your surroundings. Every day you are surrounded by beauty and kindness. Do you see it?
- Show gratitude daily for what you have. Say it to your loved ones and colleagues, or write it down. Stop to appreciate and acknowledge the wonderful things around you.
- Volunteer and give back to your community. Sharing your time and skills is immensely satisfying, broadens your views and helps you learn new things.
- Meditate and manage stress. Calming, clearing, and slowing down your mind can lead to a steadier state of positivity, joy and compassion.
- Strengthen relationships. Quality, not quantity, directly affects one’s level of happiness.
- Perform random acts of kindness. Doing things for others or the environment improves one’s outlook on life.
Instead of focusing only on those fleeting feelings of happiness, strive for overall contentment and embrace the journey. Think about your life more broadly to find satisfaction.
Try making changes to straighten your course. Take the hard stuff in stride. Feel elated with the good stuff. Feel disappointment with the bad stuff. It will get easier and better. Seek to grow and learn from every experience. Believe that you will find your path to embracing a life full of meaning and prosperity!