If you ever thought, “why am I not happy with my life” this series of article on happiness should help you.
In this series of articles, I’ll discuss several of the reasons most of us aren’t as happy as we could be. I’ll also delve into what we can do about it. You’ll see how your brain tricks you.
You may not agree with all the points I’ll be making. However, I hope you’ll feel at least a tiny bit happier after you finish this series.
At the end of each article, I’ll give some straight forward exercises to help you practice what you learn in the article. Now, let’s get started!
Your brain is not designed for happiness
Why am I not happy with my life?
One of the answer to that question has to do with the way your brain operates.
The first thing you must understand about happiness is that you brain is not designed for it. It’s almost like your brain tricks you out of your happiness.
Your brain is designed to ensure your survival, and that’s the reason you’re here today. Your brain makes sure that you feel good after you eat, drink, have sex, or do something that feels safe. That way, you won’t die from hunger, thirst, or putting yourself in danger, and you’ll be likely to pass on your genes. Aside from that, however, your brain won’t help with your happiness unless you train it to.
These days, the way your brain is wired has become largely obsolete. People no longer have to risk their lives for food and water on a daily basis, and saber-toothed tigers aren’t lurking at every corner. Yet, your brain constantly scans your environment for potential threats.
As such, your brain is wired to focus on the negative. Have you noticed how just one negative comment about your work can outweigh the hundreds of positive comments you’ve received?
That’s probably because of the way your brain functions. Anything that can lead to being ostracized or rejected is perceived as a threat.
As silly as this may seem today, it was actually very important for the bulk of human history. In the past, being expelled from one’s community could mean exposure to the elements, decreased ability to successfully hunt, and, ultimately, death.
Nowadays, death isn’t such a huge threat. It’s rare to be expelled from one’s community, and it wouldn’t be a death sentence if it were to happen.
Even so, our brains are still looking for potential threats and the possibility of rejection. It’s as if the brain has learned to redirect its focus from major threats to minor ones. Anything that carries even the remote possibility of rejection is often perceived as a threat.
You can test this out for yourself. Take a look at your negative emotions and fears. You’ll notice that many of them have to do with fear of rejection and the desire to belong.
Your boss criticizes your work? Fear instantly kicks in. On a subconscious level you begin to think the worst. What if you get fired and can’t find another job? If that happens, your spouse and kids will likely leave you and you’ll eventually become homeless. Sooner than later you’ll die on the streets and no one will remember your existence. Pretty scary, isn’t it?
Yet, in reality, most of the things we worry about will never happen. As Mark Twain said, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” The media, politicians, and marketers love to play on our fears because it makes us more vulnerable and easier to manipulate. Fear sells, not rational arguments.
Did you know that people buy more products after seeing negative news than they would have otherwise? It’s crazy, but true! No wonder we’re inundated with bad news and all things fear-inducing.
So next time you catch yourself thinking, why am I not happy with my life, remember that your brain can often trick you into focusing on the negative while there are a millions of positive things we can focus on.
The importance of conditioning your mind
Fortunately, though our brain tricks you into focusing on what could go wrong, we have the power to condition our minds to experience more positive emotions. We can stop being enslaved by our fears. After all, most of us are living in relatively safe environments and have a myriad of things to be grateful for. Why should we waste our time and energy on a negative mindset?
Some people would argue that it’s unhealthy to continually see the glass as half-full. Yet I don’t believe seeing it as half-empty is a better alternative.
Conditioning your mind to experience more positive emotions doesn’t mean losing touch with reality. It doesn’t mean that you live in denial of what’s happening right in front of you. It just means that, after properly assessing the situation, you choose to stop worrying about it. You refuse to let your brain tricks you.
As you’ll see in the next article, we’re addicted to worrying, which causes a lot of unnecessary stress in our lives. As such, it’s important that we learn to focus on the positive side of things rather than dwelling on negative. This is crucial to increasing our happiness. Fortunately, it can be done through daily conditioning.
Personally, I condition my mind each morning as part of my morning ritual. I spend time focusing on everything I’m grateful for. I listen to gratitude meditation while stretching and meditate for 25 minutes, among other things.
It took time to get results, but thanks to this regular mental conditioning, I almost always wake up feeling great. I actually think that conditioning my mind in the evening would allow me to wake up even happier.
If you want to increase your overall happiness, cultivating gratitude on a daily basis is probably the best thing you can do. I really can’t stress enough how important that habit is. Your brain can trick you into dwelling on negative, but you can trick your mind to focus on the positive.
Focusing on the positive side of things means that instead of thinking, “why am I not happy with my life?”, you ask yourself, “what am I grateful for right now”?
Exercise – Cultivating gratitude
This week’s exercise is very simple. Take just 2-3 minutes each morning to think about what you’re grateful for. Choose one of the following exercises:
- Ask yourself what you’re grateful for today
- Write down at least 3 things you’re grateful for in your journal or on a piece of paper.
- Listen to gratitude meditations or videos on the subject to increase feelings of gratefulness
Experiencing gratitude is a skill that requires time and practice. Don’t worry if you struggle to feel it at first. As you consciously focus on things you’re grateful for, your mind will subconsciously begin to focus on them automatically. You’ll then start appreciating the little things in life, and may even find yourself with more things to be grateful for.
I challenge you to do one of these exercises every day for the next 7 days? Are you up to the task? Let me know in the comments section below.
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