If you read the news, it seems that the “pursuit of happiness” is a top story. It is made to seem like some ideal that must be chased. The truth is that you can find happiness in your daily life, for your entire life, by changing your thinking.
What brings you joy, contentment, and pleasure can be very different from someone else.
Even the people closest to you may have a different definition of what “happiness” means. Perhaps reading quietly in a room alone is one’s ultimate joy. Being in a crowd of people during a celebration may be another’s. If you’re not causing harm, there is no “right” or “wrong” about what brings you pleasure.
Outside forces can shake your satisfaction with life, that’s true enough. Financial issues, health problems, broken relationships, and loss can impact the way you feel…but those things mustn’t be allowed to affect the core of who you are. It is generally believed happiness is a static emotion, expanding and contracting as life events and stress levels go up and down.
It is during the trials we face in the human condition that you can determine if you need to find happiness or already have it. Contentment with self, with who you are at the core of yourself, that is how one must define their overall quality of life satisfaction. External people, situations, or circumstances are not at the root of your happiness.
You are at the center.
Have you noticed the explosion of depression statistics in the media? Globally, more than 300 million people suffer from depression – and that’s just diagnosed cases – according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
As you might guess, many people don’t seek help for their sadness, low energy, or lack of interest in the world around them. They simply trudge through, day after day, year after year, and it becomes their default setting.
This emotional pain becomes their “normal setting” because it simply is.
The knee-jerk response to depression in the conventional medical community is handing out a prescription. They’ll suggest therapy sometimes, perhaps inquire casually about the happenings in your daily life, but they aren’t really looking for the cause of your depression…they’re treating the “symptoms” of your depression.
Their first (and often only) response is giving you a drug that masks the symptoms but actually solves almost nothing at all.
This is especially true for patients with minor depression.
Researchers with the University of Pennsylvania Department of Psychology explained, “Benefit of antidepressant medication compared with placebo increases with severity of depression symptoms and may be minimal or nonexistent in patients with mild or moderate symptoms.”
An article about antidepressant efficacy in Scientific American stated, “Clinical trial data also show that patients treated with placebos improve about 75% as much as patients treated with antidepressants, suggesting that only a quarter of the improvement shown by patients treated with antidepressants is actually attributable to the specific effect of the drugs. The rest of the improvement is a placebo response.”
Let me break that down even further. If you are depressed and were to receive a “prescription” for a placebo drug that contained zero pharmaceuticals, it is highly likely that upon taking it, you would feel 75% better than you do right now. Multiple studies have been done on this very theory and it is proven out time and again.
That means 75% of the positive effect is literally your own mind thinking yourself better, believing deeply in the “treatment” and forcing a physical, mental, and emotional response.
Retired psychologist, Michael D. Yapko, explained his view of antidepressants, “They are barely better than a placebo. Psychiatry has postulated an imbalance in brain chemicals, which is good for selling drugs but not for treating people. In Britain, they do not use drugs at all except in extreme cases, because of how ineffective and unsafe they are.” He goes on to add, “This is an emotionally charged issue. Medication is still the most common form of treatment, which is why the problem is getting bigger, not smaller. Using drugs after the problem is already there isn’t especially effective. Meanwhile, the person’s life is slipping away.”
Billions of dollars in annual profits made from giving Americans prescriptions for depression is not going to be given up easily.
According to Business Insider, 11% of the United States population takes an antidepressant. The U.S. is the number one user of antidepressants in the entire world.
Remember, they don’t “cure” depression (or profess to) – they simply mask the symptoms. The underlying problem or cause is still there, hidden behind the minimal effects of the drug.
You Won’t Find Happiness in a Pill
You can choose to make contentment, happiness, and joy your default setting. If it’s not a “normal setting” for you, you can train your mind to embrace positive habits and thinking patterns until they become the norm.
This isn’t woo-woo science.
Multiple studies have shown a heavy overlap of joyful people who are also healthy. This is generally attributed to similar lifestyle patterns of people who describe themselves as “happy.”
Since people alive now are unhealthier than ever before, the correlating rise in depression certainly makes sense! It’s not a cure-all – and certainly not for every case of clinical depression. However, there is a proven direct link between physical health and mental health. The opposite is also true.
It is about healthy habits and recognizing how we think.
Clinical psychologist, Ron Breazeale Ph.D., wrote in Psychology Today that, “A faulty thinking pattern, like any old habit, does not die easily. A first step in changing it is to recognize it for what it is and to commit ourselves to try very hard not to make use of it. This may be especially difficult when we are feeling angry or upset. It is at these times that our strong feelings may lead us back to these old patterns.” He calls this “catastrophic thinking” and outlines three types.
- Confirmation bias: This is accepting only information and data that support your current beliefs and values.
- All or none: This is where events are seen in stark black or white without flexibility.
- Over-generalization: This is when you see a single temporary event as a general permanent state of affairs.
By recognizing (and working to change) these negative thought patterns, you help to protect your mental and emotional state from damaging you physically.
From the health side, there are 9 ways you work to improve your body to directly impact the health of your mind. Again, these are not “cures” for depression but techniques that can effectively help you manage it.
- A clean, nutritious diet made up of whole foods and less garbage.
- Controlling external stress with meditation and yoga.
- Getting quality sleep every single night.
- Get rid of toxic people in your life (or limit your exposure).
- Exercise a little bit every day (even low-impact).
- Seek out people who are healthy and genuinely happy.
- Be kind to others (helping another person makes you feel incredible).
- Cut yourself some slack.
- Count your wins instead of your losses.
You don’t have to chase down happiness like someone who just stole your wallet. You can find happiness (in small increments) in your life as it as, while you actively work to change the things that fill you with negative emotion.
There will always be negative situations or people in your life. Job loss, death, chronic illness, divorce, financial trouble, and more can leave you feeling wiped out and unable to cope.
You can do it…and if you apply some of that “placebo effect” to the new (better) habits you form, you might feel 75% better than you do right now.
That’s definitely a win to count!