Saturday, July 28, 2018

Hidden #CausesOfUnhappiness

Life,characterized by varying degrees of joy,sorrow,hope,despair,lassitude and initiative,is a dappled path.Everybody passes through different phases from time to time,but some people look inordinately bogged down with sorrow and despair.An objective appraisal of their life-conditions fails to explain their despondence.An unknown factor seems to be at work.

Could it be because of their thought processes-the way they interpret what happens to them and around them?Very likely.Because the same event elicits different reactions from different individuals and gives rise to corresponding emotions.Those who look at everything with alarm and distrust will have a lot to be pessimistic about.

A small disruption in life,an unsatisfactory relationship,a deficiency in personality,occasional bouts of anxiety or listlessness:any of these will impact different people in different ways.Someone who is satisfied with less,who is a happy-go-lucky kind of person,will just take it in his stride and not think twice about it.But a perfectionist who wants everything in his life to be just so,without any jarring note,will be unhappy even at the presence of a minor shortcoming,and fail to savor the advantages he has been blessed with-until he lowers the bar a bit.

Overthinking is another habit which can make you miserable despite having all the amenities required to enjoy a perfect life.An analytical brain blows up tiny flaws to gigantic proportions.Your thoughts go into a downward spiral accentuating negativity and preventing curative measures.Overthinking being a big issue these days,requires a separate post later.Suffice it to say that it causes stress and anxiety.

You can read more about the ways to control anxiety in this post.

It is not the situations,but how we react to them which makes us happy or unhappy.For example,a major obstacle might be taken as a moment to think up another strategy by one person,but a dead end by another.Naturally the first one will be fired with enthusiasm while the latter will give up hope and initiative.The former will be happy and well adjusted while the latter will be downcast and full of misgivings.

A fight with a friend may impact a girl to the extent of her concluding that she is not likable,does not know how to get along with people,and is likely to be ostracized by the whole group.She is obviously generalizing one episode to pass a judgement on her entire personality, predicting the future,and making a mountain of a molehill.Sounds very erroneous doesn't it?But we often do blow up something out of proportion and lose sleep over it.

Another likely cause of unhappiness is jumping to conclusions.Your partner informs you that he will be late at work.You immediately begin to speculate if he had a date with his secretary or if he was cheating on you.An overactive imagination will go into the worst possible scenario and leave that person worried.Jumping to conclusions or visualizing the worst possible outcome of any development is common where health issues are concerned.A tension headache might be construed by someone as the beginning of a brain tumor,depressing that person without any basis. 

You can learn more about illness anxiety or hypochondria at this post.

It is obvious that much of our unhappiness is the result of faulty thinking.Loss,pain and grief are an inseparable part of life.We cannot escape the sorrow which some events inflict on us,but we can stop ourselves from ruing over baleful scenarios concocted by distorted thinking.

In order to do this it is necessary to recognize the incipience of such thoughts and nip them in the bud.Don't let these thoughts entrench themselves in your brain lest they become a permanent feature.Divert your mind when you see it running into a wrong channel.Start something you really enjoy doing.Try to be more balanced and logical in the conclusions you draw and the opinions you form.This simple course correction will yield greater happiness and peace of mind.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

A Common Cause of Unhappiness:Comparisons

They say happiness is a state of mind.It follows that the various constituents of our mind are what make us happy.And if we are sad,then too it must be because of the workings of an element of our mind only.In order to be happy we need to weed out that element,tendency or habit which  cooks up despondence for us.

One such culprit is the human tendency to rate oneself in comparison to others.I hasten to add that comparisons can be useful too.When we recognize we are far more talented than many others,our self esteem climbs up many notches.Even negative comparisons can inspire us to jack up our performance or cultivate in our own selves a quality which we admire in others.

But this happens only if we remain level-headed and do not bemoan our inadequacy or mediocrity every time we come across someone who is more accomplished than us in any way. When unfavorable comparisons become a habit,they also become a major source of unhappiness because they  spawn discontent and wither our self esteem.This  throws a damper on our confidence and zeal.Even a hitherto happy person begins to feel restless and dissatisfied after such comparisons.Anxiety arrives,followed by jealousy and rancor.Peace of mind goes out of the window.

You can read this post to raise your self esteem.

All of us are different in each and every way.No clones around.When our genes,upbringing,education,backgrounds and responsibilities are all different,then what is the use of rating ourselves in comparison to others?We are born with certain innate talents and aptitudes which,if nurtured,will take us far.But negative comparisons can deflect our attention from the goals which best suit our abilities. They may even goad us to take an inappropriate route in pursuit of that charisma which we espied in someone else.

By all means keep a benchmark in front of you to guide your journey.Evolve and learn new skills,but imitating anyone is not the best way to do it.Even if you do come abreast with the person who unknowingly kindled your race;given your tendency to compete,you will soon espy another person who is superior to you and in this way the race will never end.You will remain dissatisfied all your life.

For more on the merits and demerits of competition you can read  this post.

It is no doubt very disconcerting to realize that you are less than someone else; but instead of getting upset,seize that moment to discover the potentials which you have and make the best use of those God-given gifts.Compete only with yourself.Better yourself every day and one day people will look admiringly at you and strive to equal you.

I am reminded of Anand (name changed) who was depressed because he was was doubtful of gaining admission in a prestigious institute.When I asked him if he had a plan B in mind he said his uncle and his son had graduated from that very institute and if they could,why not him?He was determined to end his life if he failed.See the extent to which a comparison can disrupt our thinking? It led this boy to the brink of suicide.

These days it is more difficult than ever to keep away from negative comparisons.The high achievers and the glitterati are all over the media,as are the glossy updates of friends and family.To safeguard your cool,remember that the ground reality may be quite different from what you see on the social network sites. If you pay more than cursory attention to them,you are bound to be frustrated.Instead of being grateful for what you have,you will be depressed because of what you do not have but others do.Give up such comparisons and you will be happy as you are and where you are. 

Image courtesy google search.