The good things in our lives are easy to overlook while we concentrate on the negative, and if we do that a lot our outlook on life can become generally negative. That path leads to “I might as well drink or use drugs, because I’m miserable anyway!”
Meditation Equals Happiness, Positivity
It is equally true that some time spent meditating on the good things in our lives can make us far more happy and positive individuals—grateful for that which we have, instead of mourning all the things we don’t. Gratitude lists are a powerful tool in recovery, and it’s always a good idea to make one out when we’re feeling sorry for ourselves.
Many of us concentrate on what we want, instead of what we have. Our Western society is based on consumerism—desire for the next great thing—and many billions of dollars are spent supporting the frame of mind that keeps us wanting, and spending, and wanting again. The same is true of other parts of life. Popular entertainment and society combine to make us believe that certain things mean success, and that we need those things to be happy. Along those lines, it is worth noting that people in Third World countries tend to report that they are generally happy more often than people in the US, despite their much lower standards of living.
The Root of Unhappiness
Unhappiness arises from expectations. We expect other people in our lives to behave in a particular way, and they persist in doing things that go against our wants. We may have been allowed to grow up believing that only a certain amount of effort is needed in life, and after that we’re entitled to reap the benefits—regardless of reality. This is guaranteed to make us bitter when the rest of the world doesn’t see things that way. Or we may have been led to believe that no matter how hard we try, we’ll never be good enough. This is a dangerous expectation indeed, because it leads to a feeling of defeat that pretty much guarantees that the prediction will prove to be true. Reality is in the middle: if we work hard, we’ll gain what we need, and what we need is usually good enough.
Oftentimes, we spend many years being ‘more, more, more’ types of people, and there is always the temptation to believe that things can make us happy. Fortunately, it is possible to learn that isn’t the case — ever —and that we can often improve our mood, demeanor and serenity by bringing our thoughts back to the basic fact that we may or may not be responsible for the ideas we’ve allowed to be poured into our minds, but we are responsible for how we choose to deal with them.
Small Things Can Help Create Happiness
Sitting down with pen and paper, and concentrating on writing a list of things that we’re grateful for can offset the idea that happiness is dependent on things outside of ourselves—that we can buy happiness, or that someone else can fill us with it. It can help us to appreciate what we already have, and also to decide what’s really important and what isn’t. In my life, I can choose to have an “attitude of gratitude,” or I can let my demons drag me around by my wants. It’s up to me.