In two words, practice gratitude. Science has proven it many times over. In as simple an effort as writing a letter of thanks, people experience greater change in affect than talk therapy combined with prescription drugs for mental health: https://www.sciencedaily.com/rel.../2008/11/081125113005.htm. With each expressive letter of thanks, there is an incremental increase in positive emotion.
I’ve covered this numerous times before:
And, frankly, it’s out in the Zeitgeist. People have seen Shawn Achor’s presentation on the Happiness Advantage: https://www.ted.com/speakers/shawn_achor. Those who haven’t seen it have encountered the precepts elsewhere. Many Psalms are a thankfulness handbook. The Lord’s Prayer is a gratitude formula. In Islam, adherents find it in Du’a. Mindfulness, the non-religious contemporary version of meditation, is often centered on appreciation for our present circumstances.
Essentially, the Western obsession with “getting my way” has led people to incrementally move away from thanks and contentment, and gradually shift toward persistent agitation. For those who pause and reflect on their lives a little longer, they find that “getting their way” actually tends to make them more irritable, more paranoid, and more unhappy. The goalpost was in the wrong place. It was on “winning” instead of a meaningful life. And then, when they lose, they feel as though they lost everything, because their whole paradigm of life was built upon “getting their way” instead of all of the things which make life precious and worthwhile.
Personally, I know it well. Having coached tens of thousands of hours, I’ve encountered outrageously worldly successful people. They aren’t one iota happier than the rest of us. People who are connected to billion dollar deals may obtain more “stuff,” but they obtain no more peace in their hearts. I’m telling you. The first 10 days that I went independent, I made more money than any big box coaches and trainers make in a year. THAT didn’t fulfill me. My appreciation for time with my family is what fulfilled me. Notice I say “my appreciation for”. I didn’t say “the time with my family” is what fulfilled me, because we can obtain that, and still be thankless. Separately, we have to develop the gratitude skill. It’s like a muscle that needs to be trained, regardless of circumstance, regardless of challenge or curse, regardless of fortune or blessing.
Tim Ferris, by most earthly standards, is a winner and a success. He talks openly about depression and thoughts of suicide. You’ll not find a more connected guy; but years ago I heard him say this:
“... went to this dinner in Silicon Valley and everyone at the table had at least 200 million dollars, drinking 10,000 dollar bottles of wine that were just stacked up in the basement. In listening to the dinner... you would assume they had just been laid off from Burger King, and had 5 kids and couldn't pay the mortgage. They were so deeply unhappy, and so depressing to be around because of their pessimism and cynicism, that it highlights for me... (the need for) gratitude in the present tense... I once heard that depression is being stuck in the past; and anxiety is being stuck in the future.”
I dwell on this concept a lot. For, to me, without proper efforts at mental health, I don’t see any point in physical fitness in the conventional sense. Don’t get me wrong. Exercise and movement is a path to support mental health. But it becomes dangerous when fitness likewise is zeroed in on “getting”. If it’s all about wants and winning, it’s empty. Instead, if it’s borne out of a deep gratitude for the temple you have, a cultivation of the health you appreciate, then it’s proper. It’s healthy. It’s respectful.
I like a passage by Henry David Thoreau:
“However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poorhouse. The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the almshouse as brightly as from the rich man's abode; the snow melts before its door as early in the spring. I do not see but a quiet mind may live as contentedly there, and have as cheering thoughts, as in a palace.”
There are proven techniques to be happier.