What’s preventing you from feeling happier? You’re probably saying things like, “I’d be a lot happier if I had: more money, a spouse, children, a better job, less weight to carry around, someone to love me, more time to myself, success (whatever that means), a better body, increased popularity, or didn’t have to listen to people tell me what to do. Well, according to experts, believing that any of those things would somehow magically bestow happiness on you is dead wrong.
I love what Albert Einstein said in a handwritten note to a bellboy in Japan in 1922, “A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness.” (Time, 11/6/17, p. 58) When I read this quote, I realized how many of my clients who are dysregulated eaters (and many who aren’t) suffer from some kind of restlessness, much of it coming from wishing for love or monetary success or weight loss. They decided at some point—not necessarily consciously—that unless they had someone to love them the way they wish to be loved or lost a certain amount of weight or made a good deal of money they could not be happy. If you make this kind of decision, of course you won’t be happy because you’ve set yourself up for failure.
Here’s another possibility called “unconditional happiness…the practice of choosing to be happy no matter what.” (“Forget your troubles; c’mon, get happy” by Marilynn Preston, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 10/24/17, p. E16) This doesn’t mean ignoring events in your life that might bring you down or pretending to be fine when you’re not. It means that no matter what happens to you, recognizing and accepting that you control your reaction to it and that no matter how bad things get for you personally or in the world, you will still try to feel happiness because being miserable is pointless. If you’re upset about what’s going on in your small world or in the big world, do something about it rather than sinking into misery.
Being thin doesn’t naturally afford anyone happiness. Nor does love, wealth or success. Happiness is an inner state that you decide is better than any other. I see clients who have quite a bit going for them, but always seem to require one more thing to make them happy. This is the restlessness that Einstein cites. I have other clients who have enough problems to earn feeling miserable, but who don’t. They practice gratitude, try to see the bright side, accept what they can’t change, and recognize that they cannot control a lot, but that they do have a say in what mood they allow themselves to be in.
Rather than try to change the world to make you happy, practice changing yourself.