Most everyone is in the process of seeking greater happiness. We are each involved in the search for feeling good inside our lives and bodies. What may come as a surprise is that many people who struggle with depression, emotional eating, stress eating, or some other addictive behavior, are really just searching for a way to feel happier. They feel some sort of unease in their emotional state and physical body, and then reach for something to numb the discomfort or make them feel better.
There is no crime in wanting to feel better. Your body is meant to be aligned with thoughts and actions that feel good. If you are currently not feeling good inside your life or your body, then certainly, continuing with emotional or stress eating, or some other addiction, is one valid choice to get through the day. If your emotional eating or addictive behavior is the only singular, lonesome tool that you have in your tool box, than hallelujah! Your self-loving survival instinct is alive and functioning. You are choosing the one action that you believe will help you feel better.
Eventually though, you will find that the fix from food or addiction does not last too long. You might feel good in the short-term, but not so well over the long-term. The consequences of your actions end up being more than you had bargained for. For example, emotional or stress eating can lead to excess weight and associated health problems. Bulimia can lead to heart arrhythmia. Anorexia can lead to impaired mental processing. The outcomes are unwanted, but the often unconscious and underlying intent was love, self-preservation, and feeling good.
If you could take all the emotional judgment, shame, and sense of failure off the eating behavior, you would be able to see that your deepest desire is an attempt to feel good. Using food, the lack of food, or some other external gratification to cope does not mean that you are sick or defective. Indeed, you are a competent manager of your own life. You might be stuck in one method of coping that has become complicated and no longer works so well, but none-the-less you are still coping and still managing life.
Take heart! New solutions for feeling better are possible. Gaining this sense of happiness does not require a deep understanding of what happened in your past, or even how dysfunctional your family was. Instead, feeling happier requires that you engage in the effort of developing new patterns of thinking and acting.
What Is Happiness
Let's take a closer look at defining happiness. Scientifically speaking, happiness is a basic sense of satisfaction with your self and your environment.
To understand this statement more fully, psychologist Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky offered this conclusion based on a 1994 study: "Happy people do not experience one success after another and unhappy people, one failure after another. Instead, surveys show that happy and unhappy people tend to have had very similar life experiences. The difference is that the average unhappy person spends more than twice as much time thinking about unpleasant events in their lives, while happy people tend to seek and rely upon information that brightens their personal outlook."
This conclusion shows that chronically happy and unhappy individuals differ in the specific thoughts and types of motivational strategies they use. For example, happy individuals interpret life events and daily situations in ways that maintain their happiness, while unhappy individuals interpret experiences in ways that reinforce unhappiness. Happy individuals are more aware of the joy and happiness available in any situation, while unhappy people register more sorrow and difficulty. This is the glass is half-empty versus the glass half-full perspective.
Wow! This is important information. The implication is that you can learn to feel happier. You can decide to take your own unhappy situation into your own hands. You can stop analyzing why you are feeling so badly, stop blaming your parents, your childhood. You can even stop blaming yourself for your troubles. Instead, you can focus on changing your thoughts and actions. Instead of focusing on the problem, you can learn to focus on the solution.
Everyone Feels Unhappy Sometimes
Recognize that everyone has experiences of feeling unhappy. Blame it on getting out of the wrong side of the bed, hormones, or the weather - it doesn't matter. One basic truth in life is that not every day is going to be an easy and miraculously happy day. Happiness expands as you make a decision to support yourself no matter what experience or emotion you are currently experiencing.
Unhappy and Happy Are Emotions
It might be useful to remind yourself that happy and unhappy are emotions. This means that like all emotions, they do not last forever. Sometimes you can shift from happy to unhappy with the passage of time. Allow more time and you will shift back into happy. In other words, this too shall pass.
Accept Being Unhappy
Acceptance is one tool your can use to deal with unhappy days. For example, since unhappy is an emotion, it means that it is a normal and natural state. You don't have to fight how you feel. Instead, decide to be at peace with the experience you are having. This doesn't mean wallowing in self-pity or drowning in depression, it means acknowledging to yourself that this the life experience you are having right now. Take several deep breathes and let it be. Once you allow acceptance, the burden of unhappy being 'wrong' disappears. A certain pressure of perfectionism disappears. A completely new way to relax and take care of yourself opens up.
Once unhappy is acceptable, you can become curious about new, self-supporting actions. For example, instead of eating to push down unhappy feelings, you can discover new ways to soothe yourself while you feel unhappy. Ask yourself,
What actions can I take to love myself while I am feeling unhappy?
Can I choose to be okay with this emotion?
Can I choose to feel happy while at the same time feeling unhappy? The glass is both half-empty and half-full at the same time.
Can I be grateful for my life even while I am currently feeling unhappy?
What can I do right now while I am feeling unhappy to produce pleasant experiences?
Remember Happy Times
It is human nature to easily forget happy moments of our life, while terrible times easily become entrenched in our minds. Our perspective is unbalanced, and often when we are feeling sad, we can't remember ever feeling happy. In addition, we have a tendency to 'play with problem' or fixate on something negative. It seems so easy to dwell on unhappy thoughts and so difficult to train ourselves to bring optimistic thoughts and attitudes to ourselves.
The next time you are feeling unhappy, remind yourself of your larger perspective. Changing a few of your thoughts can often be the fastest way to feeling okay and not so lost. For example, you might say, "Even though I'm unhappy...
My life has meaning.
There is value in what I am feeling.
It's okay to feel what I am feeling.
We all have happy and unhappy moods, feelings do not last forever.
The world is safe, and I don't have to be happy every moment.
This too shall pass.
I can choose to pamper myself while I am in this unhappy place.
Choose Self-Supportive Actions
When you are feeling unhappy, you know you don't need more food or addictive substances, you need to love yourself in brand new ways. This is a perfect time to focus on new opportunities to be tender to yourself. What can you do to feel better? Start thinking about what actions would make you feel just a little better. You don't have to erase your feeling of unhappiness, you just have to support yourself while you are going through it. For example:
Go for a walk outside.
Play with your pets.
Walk to the nearest mirror and give yourself a much needed pep talk.
Remind yourself that you are worthy of loving yourself even when you are unhappy.
Support yourself with a healthy, colorful, and nourishing meal.
Add some protein into your meals for better balance and groundedness.
Gain a balanced perspective by writing in your journal.
Write a gratitude list.
Get a 20-minute chair massage.
Sit outside and breathe in the air.
Now that you know that happiness requires action, you can begin to take care of yourself in new and different ways. Learn to see the positive in life. Your new actions won't replace your emotional or stress eating right away, and they won't immediately replace your addictive behaviors - but add enough new actions and watch as you begin to realize the power you have over your own happiness!
Want to make your world brighter and more exciting? Want to leave feeling exhausted, stressed, depressed, or overweight behind forever? Subscribe to our wonderful weekly free Loving Miracles newsletter at www.AnnetteColby.com and learn how to wake up each morning energized and glad to be alive.