After the usual holiday celebrations, I have often found myself feeling a bit depressed and lethargic. This big old house becomes much too quiet; when all my friends and family have returned to their homes.
In trying to recreate those fond memories from childhood events, it is not uncommon that we end the holiday season with a sense of letdown. As we tend to long for the protected carefree days of our youth. This is probably due to our unrealistic expectation that holiday events can provide us with lasting happiness despite the fact that we know deep down it is impossible for us to be happy all the time.
Even the happiest of people feel blue at times, it is only natural. What is more, feeling blue can actually be good for you. Mild to moderate doses of negative experience can be very beneficial to our growth and development. Studies have shown that animals that were moderately stressed when young fared better as adults in recovering from stress. Difficult situations have made them more resilient by giving them opportunities to practice bouncing back from traumatic events. Studies of people who have undergone life-altering trauma reveal a similar resiliency. Those who lose their limbs to devastating accidents tend to bounce back in due time. One study found that those who were injured in accidents felt severely angry and victimized after the first week. However, after 8 weeks, most revealed that happiness was their strongest emotion—a situation that demonstrates how adaptable the human mind can be. It also suggests that happiness is not necessarily tied to circumstance, but to the “interpretation” we give to that circumstance.
By the same token, fortunate events can trigger intense happiness, but this state of intense happiness is never lasting. Study after study shows that happiness is not founded on what is normally considered marks of prestige or pleasure. Money (and all that money can buy) does not contribute to lasting happiness. Neither does a good education or youth. In fact, older people (who have probably developed more resilience) seem on the whole to be more satisfied with life than young people are.
Studies also show that those who are spiritually and communally involved tend to experience more frequently positive emotions and an overall sense of satisfaction with life. What accentuates this satisfaction is the sense of purpose and larger context that spiritual beliefs provide.
So what can you do to improve your happiness quotient, especially after the holidays?
1. Eliminate the either/or mentality that insists you are either happy or sad. This rigid either /or perception does not make room for the flexibility required to see joy in unhappy events. Even the most tragic of events can be a source of good and it is this insistence that you see good in all situations, even the most disastrous ones, that will predispose you to experience joy. In my case, I see the empty house as an opportunity for new growth through meditation and cleaning up the mess.
2. Move away from the victim mentality. You tend to grieve more intensely when you are unwilling to let go of yourself as victim. If you can shift away from being victimized, you can be in a much better position to see how the situation can also be a source of good. Remaining flexible in your perception is the key to resilience.
3. Cultivate an awareness of the silent witness—that is, taking a third party view of yourself. Imagine you as someone watching your "self" from a third party perspective. Detaching yourself from your ego can give you a totally different view of your situation.
4. Nurture a sense of history and time in the way you look at yourself—that is, identify a purpose in your life and develop strategies to achieve it. This purpose will make you more proactive in the way you view your situation. It will also allow you to engage in long-term vision and goals. Oprah Winfrey once said that it was her extreme devastation at age 16(the victim of family abuse) that made her vow she would never be victim again. And she was never victim again; in fact, what is remarkable about Oprah is that she has not stopped re-inventing herself and the contexts of her purpose in life.
Ultimately, our happiness quotient is dependent not on how much we get, but how much we give. The way we see the context of our lives as a whole is often a good place to examine how and what we can give back to our community and the universe that nurtured us.
Please don't give me credit, I only posted this because I care, and it is in agreement with all my past experience and training.
All truly wise thoughts have been thoughts already thousands of times; but to make them truly ours, we must think them over again honestly, till they take root in our personal experience.
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe