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The Consequence Of Not Pursuing Happiness
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About 20 years ago, when I first started in Private Practice, I had a young man come to me who was so amazingly intelligent, bright, and alive with life. Although he was an incredible pleasure to work with, he came from a background where there was a lot of pain, a lot of suffering, and a lot of darkness. There were a number of very, very painful things that had happened to him in his life.
As we worked together for roughly six months, he was definitely getting better and was on an uphill trajectory. He was so intelligent that I am sure he had the potential to do a great deal of wonderful things in his life. However, circumstances changed and he stopped coming to therapy. He got involved in other things, and he ceased working on himself. He stopped his pursuit of happiness.
About seven years later, I was leaving my office one evening and he was there, waiting for me. He just wanted to talk to me for a few minutes. Clearly, life hadn’t gone well for him and although I could see hints of his former self, most of him wasn’t there anymore. Life had been hard on him and he had transformed into a completely different person. I remember after he left, I actually cried a little bit in my car. I truly felt sorry for the way his life had turned out because he was such a beautiful, beautiful soul. He had such enormous potential, but life hadn’t gone well. Especially because he had come from such a challenging background, it didn’t take long for him to deteriorate to such a great extent that he was barely recognizable. You may be thinking, “That’s too bad, but how does this relate to me?” If we didn’t have a background as challenging as his, it may seem as though this anecdote does not relate to us. However, it does relate to us all, no matter what our backgrounds may be.
If we don’t pursue happiness, then we end up in other places. These other places aren’t happy and they cause us misery and suffering. We will end up there if we don’t continue to put energy toward the pursuit of happiness. With regard to physical health, we all understand this idea. If we put forth energy to eat well and exercise, and to refrain from smoking or drinking too much, then we’ll physically age pretty well as long as we don’t endure any major physical catastrophes. The wonderful thing about happiness is that it doesn’t have to decline as we get older. We can gradually grow in our state of happiness and become happier as we age.
Regarding happiness, we have two choices. There are two paths that we can follow, each with its own different consequence. Using the analogy of our physical shape, if we don’t take time to be happy and have a happy life, then we’re going to get out of “happiness shape.” Happiness takes effort and if we don’t work at it, I can guarantee that we are going to become more unhappy as we age. We may mask this unhappiness with addictions, such as alcohol or prescriptions drugs, but we are going to become more and more unhappy unless we work at it.
Why is it that we will become more and more unhappy unless we continue to pursue happiness? One reason may be our background. Unless we had the most loving, perfect parents in the world and grew up in a really beautiful, perfect environment, chances are that we have some healing to do. If we don’t take the time to heal and fix the conditioning of our past, then we will have a tendency toward unhappiness. A second reason is perhaps more subtle, but it definitely exists. Our world really isn’t invested in us being happy; our world is far more invested in itself and its own gain.
I was once asked to film a ten-part series with the Fox Reality Channel. My role in the series was basically to help the participants to understand why they were acting as they were. As always, I explained each individual’s behavior in a kind and loving way because I believe there are always underlying reasons as to why we do things. The director was constantly trying to have me say things that I wasn’t comfortable with saying, and after six weeks, they fired me because I wasn’t “sensational” enough. Yes, I got fired from a show called Busted and Disgusted because I wouldn’t attack people and make fun of them. I have to admit, I’m really not too sad about my firing! Unfortunately, happy stories with happy images throughout the entire program don’t sell well. Most people who go to the movies want drama, excitement, and to see people get hurt. People want to see things that really aren’t very nice. This is what they are pushing today on television and in the media. These images shape us and affect the way we interact with the world. If we watch these types of images enough and interact with all of the negative themes in news events, television, radio, movies, music, and so on, all of these things serve to wear us out. They make us become cynical and lose faith in humanity; we become “with kind” and far more unhappy.
There are so many ways I can prove this theory. Let me attempt a very simple way of doing so. If you or anyone you know watches a lot of news, think upon if they’re very happy people. I’ll challenge you that anyone who watches a lot of news probably isn’t very happy. If you’re watching the news every single day, waking up daily to all the negative news events, you need to STOP! Instead, go for a walk, spend some time in nature, watch the sunrise or sunset, or listen to the birds and see if your day or even your week doesn’t go a little bit better. Take this challenge in order to determine if you don’t feel a little happier in life with more positive and beautiful surroundings.
This is the other path we can choose, a path where we’re surrounding ourselves with things which add to our happiness. Such things clearly make us more positive, more peaceful, and happier people. Meditation is one of the big ones that we can choose. You would be hard pressed to meditate and not find that, with time, you become happier. A number of scientific studies support this fact.
My goal here isn’t to explore every aspect of happiness and unhappiness, but instead to look at the overall picture. If we actively pursue happiness, then we are going to become happier. When we work at something, we’re going to achieve positive results. However, the reverse is also true and it’s far more subtle. If we do not work toward achieving happiness, then we will inevitably become unhappy. For example, if you want to make a lot of money and you’re poor, then you have to work at it. The poorer you are, the more work it takes to become richer. But sooner or later, you will become wealthier, especially if you have someone knowledgeable helping you along the way. That’s where I come in: I can help you to become happier along the journey of life. I’ll do my best to present information to you that can aid you in your pursuit of happiness, so that we can all have beautiful lives. But if you don’t work at it, just like money, you’re going to lose out. It is an unavoidable fact that we all will become poor if we just sit around and do nothing. If we don’t do anything to become happy, then we are going to end up being unhappy because of the many things in life pushing against us negatively. If we want to be happy, we have to work at it. It’s really worth it! I’m hoping you’ll find my inspirations and knowledge that I share with you here to be an essential tool to your constant pursuit of happiness.
Happiness is something we can all have no matter what our backgrounds are or how old we may be. We can all work toward happiness. While it does take work, achieving happiness is so worth the effort. Let us always pursue happiness, each and every day, and let me have the honor of sharing my knowledge with you so that I may help you in your pursuit of happiness.
Dr. Robert Puff, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, author, international speaker, and happiness expert who has been counseling individuals, families, nonprofits, and businesses for over twenty years in Newport Beach, Newport Coast, Laguna Beach, Irvine, Corona del Mar and Huntington Beach.
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