Do You Suffer From “Happiness Destination Syndrome”?

Happiness Destination Syndrome

OK. So before we begin, as a licensed therapist I must tell you that there is technically no such thing as “Happiness Destination Syndrome” or HDS.  It is not listed in any diagnostic manual. I made it up to describe a pattern of behaviors and thought patterns that is pretty common among many many people.

And as a person recovering from HDS, I can tell you that it is very real and its symptoms are profound. Here are some examples of statements that usually come from people plagued by HDS:

  • “After I find a new job, then I can make more money and be happy.”
  • “When I find someone to truly love me and start a relationship with, then I can be happy.”
  • “Once I have kids, then I’ll be happy.”
  • When I retire and my kids are grown, then I can finally have time to myself then I can be happy.”

See where this is going?

HDS is constantly thinking that happiness is always somewhere “out there” over the next hill. HDS is feeling like the current moment or set of circumstances is never enough to feel “happy.” People who live with HDS feel like there is always the need for “more,” or “better.” It is simply a never-ending treadmill.

Now let me say here that there is nothing wrong with wanting to improve the quality of your life. There is nothing wrong with setting and achieving goals. And sometimes the feeling of dissatisfaction can actually be a powerful motivator to change things that you dislike. But thinking that  you are not enough and can absolutely never be happy until the next great thing happens will only result in you feeling empty and dissatisfied even after you have achieved the goal.

Because the underlying thought behind HDS is that you need to DO more and ACHIEVE more in order to BE more. And that simply isn’t true.

I can attest to spending the first chunk of my young adulthood with HDS. Thinking that the next relationship, or job, or degree was going to make my life magically better. I thought that I just needed to attain the next and best shiny thing in order to feel better about myself and my life. But what I would routinely discover is that once I would reach that next destination, I would feel good for a short while, but then eventually go back to thinking something was missing. I was looking for something to fill the void.

But happiness is not a specific destination. Happiness just is. And it exists everywhere. It is all around us and within us.

So here are my 3 tips to cure any Happiness Destination Syndrome outbreaks:

Stop Magical Thinking

Nothing is a magical cure all. There is nothing  and nobody that will make all your problems go away. Stop thinking that. No job, relationship, education, or amount of money will make all your problems go away. No matter where you are and what you have, there will always be both joys to experience and challenges to overcome. Without exception. Moving into different circumstances simply means that there will be new joys as well as new challenges. And sometimes moving into new circumstances exacerbate your current challenges. I think lottery winners are a good example of this. You can read some of these sad stories here or here. These examples show that money wasn’t a magic cure-all. Even after winning millions of dollars, these people still struggled with addiction, unsupportive relationships with people who did not mean them well, and unfortunate judgment. The new set of circumstances merely exaggerated what was already there. That’s why jumping into new external circumstances as an escape never has the effect we think it will.

Flip the Script

Sometimes we don’t even realize the complicated  conditional statements we impose on our happiness. When you make your happiness conditional, you have created specific paradigms and bought into certain belief systems that simply are not true. A paradigm is an operating belief system. Let’s take the common thought “I won’t be really happy unless I’m in a romantic relationship. ”  Another way to say that statement is “The only way for me to be happy is if I’m in a romantic relationship.” When you express the statement this way, it sounds truer to the point and more in line with your operating paradigms. And I urge you to think more about why you think that is true for you.  Who told you that this is true? Why do you think you are only worthy of happiness in a romantic relationship? All real change comes through internal paradigm shifts.

But in the meantime, one way to disrupt your unhelpful operating paradigms is to ask yourself: How can I experience more joy today in my current set of circumstances? Ask yourself this every single day until you have some answers and then actually start to enact it.
findjoyineveryjourney
This plaque hangs over my sink as my daily reminder.

Remember Your Life is Happening NOW

This is your life and it is happening right now. This is the core message in all the work that I do.  Every single moment of your life is an absolute gift. Do not wish your current life away. That is wasteful. And you deserve so much better. The past is gone and the future is not promised. The current moment is the most important. You will never have the chance to re-live anything.  And your life does not stop while you are in pursuit of your goals.  This means that it is up to you to decide to find happy experiences in every single day.

Life is not solely a picnic. Serious and grave things happen. But life is not all a drag either. Beautiful and wondrous things happen too,  all the time in fact. And because the serious and grave things happen, the joyous things are even more meaningful and precious. Your job is to savor these daily moments of joy. They exist. You just have to make the effort to train yourself to identify them and appreciate them. Again ask yourself, “How can I experience more joy today in my current set of circumstances?”

Now I’d love to hear from you. In the comments below, please share something that you thought would bring you “happiness” but when you got it, it didn’t.

And if you liked this post, please be sure to sign up for our mailing list.

Everyday Abundance: Summer Edition

orchards

Now that Labor Day is behind us and the kids are back in school, summer has unofficially ended.

So, how did you spend your summer? Did you get a chance to celebrate the sun and heat that summer brings?

Part of living an abundant life is appreciating and making the most of the small joys we experience everyday. These small things make up our lives, so we might as well revel in them.

Each day is a gift and a reason in and of itself to celebrate. You are alive. That’s plenty to be happy about.

For some reason, we get so preoccupied with waiting for the big things. We wait for huge monumental things to happen in order to give ourselves permission to celebrate. We wait for big things because we think they are what make our life worth living.

But honestly that’s not very fun and furthermore, when we recognize and celebrate the small pleasures, we train ourselves to look for joy everyday. In short, we tap into our Everyday Abundance.

Here’s a snapshot of the abundance I experienced this summer:

1. Fruit Orchards

usfruitorchard
Having fun in the fruit orchards.

I am definitely a bonafide city girl, born and raised in New York City. But if I could split myself in two and have one part of me live in the city, while the other part lives in the country, I would jump at the chance. I love the country and wish I had the chance to go out in nature more often. This summer, my bestie and I headed out to Pick Farms to do some fruit picking one bright, hot and clear August day.  I have been to some gigantic and sprawling orchards in the past, but this small quaint one was really nice too. Aside from the occasional fellow picker we ran into, we pretty much had the orchard all to ourselves.

Along with pear trees and blueberry bushes, this farm had

Chickens:

chickencoop

And raspberries:

raspberries

And apples:

apples

But the true stars of the show, were these orange fuzzy PEACHES:

peachtree

 

peaches

I absolutely love peaches and they were everywhere. All ripe and big and beautiful.  We must have picked about 50 of them, as much as we could carry.

And what did I do with all those fresh juicy peaches?

You guessed it!

peachpie
An ooey gooey sweet peach pie. I can still smell and taste it. My kitchen smelled so delicious!

2.  Summer senses

One of the things I love best about the summer is that every single living thing seems to be out on display.

In the summer, everything in nature wants to be seen and noticed. So they whip out their most vibrant colors, loudest sounds, and most fragrant perfumes and put on shows for the world to see.

And for some reason, we seem more primed to notice them. Our senses become captivated. From the smell of cut grass to the feel of mosquitoes as they land on our skin, to the sounds of bees buzzing, we know the sights, sounds, smells and feels of summer.

And everything is so darn beautiful without even really trying.

purplealleyflowers
These beautiful delicate lilac wildflowers grow on their own in the alley behind my house.

 

sunflowers
The tops of some very tall and unruly sunflowers that grow in my neighbor’s backyard.

Summer also has a sound all of its own. I spent countless afternoons listening to the cicadas in the trees right outside my living room window while working and reading. It’s such a peaceful sound. I have fallen asleep on my couch on many hot afternoons while the cicadas sang me to sleep. Here, listen:

 

3.  Spending time with family

Summertime is when we all relax a bit from our hectic rhythms that we adopt during the other seasons. In the summer, we tend to slow down and take time. In the summer, we have barbecues, and picnics with friends and family.

This July I went down to North Carolina to spend a few weeks  with my brother, sister, nieces, and nephews. And as always, I had such a good time.

I enjoyed my nature walks with my hilarious and beautiful niece. Good times!

 

These were a few ways that I appreciated the abundance that summer brought me. And I’m waiting blissfully as Autumn approaches. Autumn is my absolute favorite season, so I will be celebrating BIG TIME.

What about you? In what ways was your summer abundant? How did you celebrate the summer?