How does it feel when a movie ends on a happy note and the couple reunites or the hero is saved? We love that, don’t we? Simply because that’s what we want in our lives; to live happily ever after. The question is, is that possible? Can life be without problems and pain? Can life be what TV programs portray?

We need to ask ourselves can we accept life knowing that it isn’t going to be “happily ever after” and are we okay with that? I remember being told that by being married life will be better and I won’t have any problems. Honestly, even though I’d like to believe that, it doesn’t work that way. Finding your Prince Charming or Cinderella does not mean the universe will freeze throwing curveballs at you. Life is what it is, you get happiness and you get pain.

What’s interesting is we constantly wish others especially on birthdays and special occasions with greetings as follows: “wishing you life’s happiness today and always” or “may you always be happy”. Our intent is in the right place but are we being naive thinking that this is attainable? Can one be free from hurdles and suffering?

In the Happiness Trap book by Russ Harris, he writes that we, as homo sapiens are survivors and we are constantly finding ways to live better and to feel better. In today’s world, our survival skills have become about having more money or better houses in order to feel good. Feeling good is a form of happiness however it is short lived. What’s sad is, our strategy for coping with the short-attained happiness isn’t good enough because we get anxious or depressed and move on to wanting something else. The tragic news is by 2020, depression will be the second biggest and costliest problem known to people. So the question we can ask ourselves is, what is it that can help us cope with our anxiety or depression? We will get sad, anxious or worried and it’s part of life. Knowing how to cope with it will help us live better.

Mr. Harris mentions in his book that 1 out of every 2 person thinks of suicide at some point in their lives. That’s the scariest thing I’ve read. It goes to show how poor we are in coping with our pain. We run after happiness but then we don’t stop to learn how to accept and deal with our suffering.

Here are some pointers he suggests:

Defusion. Coming from the idea that we don’t need to be afraid of our negative feelings or thoughts. Our mind makes things bigger than it is, so if we defuse it then it doesn’t get blown out of proportion.

Expansion. Allowing yourself to feel what is brewing inside and not suppress it. The more it is suppressed then it gets volcanic later.

Connecting. Being with what is going on right here and now. Being in the very present moment. Worries or anxiety occurs when our mind drifts to the past or future. Being aware of when it does and bringing it back to what’s going on in the present, whether it is a TV program or a cup of tea, just being with that experience completely.

Observing Self. Noticing what’s going on. Being the observer of your own life, or whatever it is that you are experiencing so it allows you to not be swayed by your emotions but to step back and just look at it. Observe your thoughts, feelings, actions and just be with it.

As I’m reading this book, thanks to my university lecturer, I’m learning to understand more about different ways to deal with anxiety. Perfect timing really given it is the beginning of a new school term. 🙂

Being in control of you life and having realistic expectations about your day-to-day challenges are the keys to stress management, which is perhaps the most important ingredient to living a happy, healthy and rewarding life. — Marilu Henner