Friday, March 14, 2014

Is the "Search for Happiness" Counterintuitive?

It was not a coincidence that I have had several opportunities to talk about happiness. As some may be aware, I found that I was lacking happiness and really starting doing some deep introspection about what I needed to do, what attitudes I needed to change, what habits I needed to break, where I may be lacking in the spiritual aspect of my life in order to find happiness.

I took a rather methodical approach to happiness (adopted from The Happiness Project) and began measuring my success by my accomplishments, acknowledging my failures, and reporting my endeavors on this blog. I still feel it is a worthwhile endeavor, and so I will keep on keepin' on. However, I made some discoveries and have had some discussions, which have altered my approach, slightly. 

First, one night my sweetheart and I were talking about contentment. He said he was reading an article that said something along the lines of, if you are constantly in search of happiness you will not find it, because you are creating a delta where it may never exist because you are in constant search of it. Something like that.

This idea reminded me of a conversation I had with someone who was depressed who said that he would rather not talk about his depression, not because he was in denial, but because the more he would talk about it, the deeper in his depression he became. He felt like if he kept talking about it, because he was still deep in it, it made him believe that he was so depressed that he couldn't get out of it. This idea makes sense to me. 

I often hear that what we tell ourselves in our minds becomes reality, like saying "I'm not tired," after 24 hours of no sleep can actually help someone capitalize on what energy they do have, and how these people - at the end of the day - testify that they really aren't tired. Perhaps it is a philosophy of The Secret, I assume, having personally not listened to it. It is the same with what we tell ourselves too. If we keep saying, "I'm not good enough" so many times, we may begin to believe it.

Regardless of the research that may or may not back up this theory, I was intrigued by this idea of searching for happiness. Automatically, I came up with the following questions:
  • Is it still possible to progress if we are not seeking happiness? 
  • Is it possible to remain in a state of contentment and yet still have the motivation to hope for betterment, peace, understanding, or happiness?
  • If I was happy, would I be trying to figure out what the Lord needed me to do to obtain it fully? 
  • Is this type of introspection, the search for happiness, bad or wrong? 
Perhaps what the article was trying to say is that if we worry so much about tomorrow, we will miss out on a lot of joy we could have today. I agree with that sentiment at least. 

I have included several excerpts from the talk Finding Joy in the Journey by President Thomas S. Monson, who said: 

"This is our one and only chance at mortal life—here and now. The longer we live, the greater is our realization that it is brief. Opportunities come, and then they are gone. I believe that among the greatest lessons we are to learn in this short sojourn upon the earth are lessons that help us distinguish between what is important and what is not. I plead with you not to let those most important things pass you by as you plan for that illusive and nonexistent future when you will have time to do all that you want to do. Instead, find joy in the journey—now."

"Said one well-known author: “Both abundance and lack [of abundance] exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend … when we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that’s present—love, health, family, friends, work, the joys of nature, and personal pursuits that bring us [happiness]—the wasteland of illusion falls away and we experience heaven on earth.”"

"The ancient Roman philosopher Horace admonished, “Whatever hour God has blessed you with, take it with grateful hand, nor postpone your joys from year to year, so that in whatever place you have been, you may say that you have lived happily.”"

Second, some of you also know that it is hard for me to be content in the moment. I am always trying to do better, be better, thinking about tomorrow, and am generally a tightly-wound sort of person who always have to have a list and a plan.

This week, I attended a wonderful ladies night activity dinner, where we also had small discussion groups talking about the Plan of Happiness. The more we discussed happiness, the more I realized, I am just not getting it! After all those talks I read about praying, serving other people, living in the moment, being present, reading scriptures, going to the temple, learning about patience and timing, developing faith, etc., I still don't feel like I get what I need to do. Sad, really. 

During the conversation, we talked about having faith enough to live in the now. Having faith allows us to live in the now, stop thinking about our past, hope for the future, but don't obsess about living for the future. Then the question was asked: What are you doing to empower your faith? 

I sat there stumped. What am I doing to empower my faith. Other than direct obedience, am I really feeding my faith the way I need to learn this valuable lesson of 'finding joy in the journey?'

I pose these questions to you, my readers. 
  1. How do you feel/find joy in your journey? 
  2. Is finding joy in the journey something you have to work at - one that you have to concentrate on everyday? If so, what techniques do you employ?
  3. What do you do to empower your faith?
  4. Do you feel that searching for happiness is counterintuitive?
I would love to hear from you.


The painting above is by Mike Vollmer from Houston. For me, the brilliant colors bring to light the idea that I am surrounded by magnificence everyday, and I could be a part of that if only I would open my eyes. For me, the light that seems to be streaming from the top, depicting the hope that this thing called 'happiness' can be found today...the search is over. Thank you for this wonderful painting.

The Second Painting is by Rassouli. I was trying to find a painting that depicted how it would feel to find a way out of the storm, happiness in a confusing world, and light in a whirlwind of darkness. This painting spoke to me of what it would feel like to experience joy again, if not for the first time. This artist has captured my heart and soul. All the other paintings also exude this conquering spirit.

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