Trapped In Unhappiness
“In this life, we have to make many choices. Some are very important choices. Some are not. Many of our choices are between good and evil. The choices we make, however, determine to a large extent our happiness or our unhappiness, because we have to live with the consequences of our choices.”
James E. Faust
In a Harris Poll of Americans ages 18 and older in May 2017, it was found that only 1 in 3 could actually say they were happy. This poll determined that those who were the happiest were men and women from high-income households and those with at least high school diploma or less.
According to John Gerzema, the CEO of the Harris Poll, “To me, it feels like a cultural lack of presence, We are so caught up in our texting, multitasking, jobs and commutes that we seem to have less and less free time. Older people age 65+ are the happiest.”
This shines a light on what is happening to people all over the world. It’s not just about politics, the threat of war or what color our skin is but a lack of closeness between people of all ages and ethnicities. People are just not as emotionally attached as they used to be. Finding real happiness is beyond the reach of most people.
The idea that we feel trapped is echoed in the fact so many people don’t enjoy the jobs they are at or feel they get enough quality time with their family. Their energy level is reflected in lack of good health and they feel they don’t have the time to do anything about it.
Why is this such a major problem in the world and what can be done to combat the unhappiness to which a majority of people sadly find themselves falling into?
The Trap Of Unhappiness
“There are seeds of self-destruction in all of us that will bear only unhappiness if allowed to grow.”
Essentially, it all comes down to living in some of a trap. We fall into this trap, not recognizing our fall until it’s way too late to do anything about it.
The trap innocently begins after high school and quietly manifests itself as a maze of quests and searches that forces us to make decisions based on emotions and not logic.
Decision #1 – Either you leave high school and go into college, take on an apprenticeship or get stuck with a low entry job with no benefits and low salary. You have to fight your way up the ladder or get stuck working more than one low-paying job to make ends meet.
Decision #2 – Live with your parents until you can afford to move out or give up your freedom and feel bound by your parents rules and regulations. Even though they love and care about you, being a twenty-something living in your parents home puts undue pressure to “Make it” in the real world.
We all know, this is the age when communication is at its lowest between family members and teenage angst gives way to realities of the real world.
Decision #3 – If you took on the apprenticeship, then you work hard to stand on your own two feet and become a working member of society. If you went to college, you must spend four years or more pushing yourself to the limit to graduate and get that “Great job” that will allow you to move out on your own and begin the life you dreamed about when you started college in the first place.
You enjoy the freedom and the means that work offers you as well as the feeling of success, so you climb the ladder. You intend to find work that is fulfilling and rewarding at some point in the future but that future never seems to come.
Decision #3 – You meet someone and maybe get married and have children. Either way, you now have too many responsibilities and commitments to people other than yourself thrust upon your shoulders at such a young age. You obviously need that job to make ends meet but it isn’t the life you imagined.
Decision # 5 – You start to accumulate expensive items like cars and televisions while working longer hours with more responsibility. The trappings of life box you in and it feels like a prison. You come home in the evenings exhausted and with no energy to pursue other interests or things that quench the thirst in your heart. Stress and a lack of exercise and or passion leaves you tired and unhealthy. You feel like you’re too old to begin a new career or to change your life.
Does all of this sound familiar? It’s a trap that befalls many of us but it doesn’t have to be if you don’t want it to be. Awareness of the problem puts you one step ahead of everyone else. It’s one step closer to breaking out of the unhappiness trap!
Spiritual Happiness Versus Economic Happiness
“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, or worn. It is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace & gratitude.”
“We need to look at why we are unhappy,” says Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of the Art of Living spiritual movement. ”Usually, it’s lack of energy in body and mind.” Living in a consumer-driven culture doesn’t help with being a happier person. He goes on to say “When people are fed up with their routine, and life seems to have no aim and meaning, then people do get depressed, despite having so many physical comforts.”
According to Time’s Special Edition entitled “The Science Of Happiness” it was determined that “Scientists have found, again and again, that those with a spiritual practice or who follow religious beliefs tend to be happier than those who don’t. Study after study has found that religious people tend to be less depressed and less anxious than nonbelievers, better able to handle the vicissitudes of life than nonbelievers. “
They goes on to state, “A 2015 survey by researchers at the London School of Economics and the Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands found that participating in a religious organization was the only social activity associated with sustained happiness—even more than volunteering for a charity, taking educational courses or participating in a political or community organization. It’s as if a sense of spirituality and an active, social religious practice were an effective vaccine against the virus of unhappiness.”
It seems that all the studies about spiritual versus economic happiness realize that the higher the standard of living the happier people tend to be but on the other side of the spectrum, the higher the inequality between economic divisions in society, the higher people tend to fall into the unhappy spectrum.
This no more apparent than in the September 3, 2015 paper in Psychological Science entitled, “Income Inequality Explains Why Economic Growth Does Not Always Translate to an Increase in Happiness” from Shigehiro Oishi at the University of Virginia and Selin Kesebir at the London Business School.
“Every single time income inequality decreased between two time points, the percentage of ‘very happy’ responses went up,” the researchers write. “And every time income inequality increased, the percentage of ‘very happy’ responses went down. In other words, although economic growth was steady and strong during this period, the evenness of the income distribution was fluctuating, and happiness was inversely related to income inequality.”
This is echoed by John Robbins, son of the co-founder of Baskin-Robbins Ice cream franchise when he said, “I believe there is truth in both camps. Up to a certain point, money is vital to happiness for almost everyone. It can buy food, clothing, and housing and provide for other basic needs. Once a person’s basic needs are met, though, money takes on a different meaning.”
That’s where the spiritual side is missing from today’s society. We are either in rapid pursuit of financial gain or jealous of others who are rich. It’s an either or situation which leaves out the spiritual side of things that can bring on true happiness.
On the Action For Happiness website they talk about getting in touch with your spiritual side. They explain this by stating: “Living happily depends on how we are in our inner lives – our thoughts, emotions, beliefs and desires. Having a spiritual dimension means finding a sense of inner peace – both peace of mind and peace in the heart. It also means allowing our inner values to guide how we interact with the world around us – our concern for others, our connection with the natural world and our interst in making a positive contribution to society.”
This is something most of us miss. We end up trying to balance both the spiritual side and the financial side but lose out to the trappings of society. If we pursue a more traditional approach of satisfying the inner soul then we will be better equipped and able to handle the economic portion of our lives.
Of course, that’s easier said than done. Tell that to someone who doesn’t have enough to eat or someone who can’t afford a place to live. Happiness is relative to how we live… from our values and how we were brought up to the influences of society and our peers both from growing up to going to school to our working lives.
Ending the Unhappiness Trap
“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservation, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality, nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit.”
One of the byproducts of unhappiness in society is an increase in medications. According to the Market Watch article, “7 Reasons Americans Are Unhappy” from August 30, 2016, “The rate of antidepressant use has surged 400% over the last decade, according to the CDC, though that may also be due to the heavy marketing of drugs like Zoloft, Lexapro and Paxil. The percentage of workers testing positive for illicit drugs such as cocaine, amphetamines and methamphetamines has increased for the second consecutive year in the general U.S. workforce, according to a 2015 workplace urine drug test of more than 6.6 million tests by Quest Diagnostics, a company that provides clinical laboratory tests on potential and/or current employees for companies. Some 4.7% of the general U.S. workforce tested positive for illegal drugs in 2014, compared with 4.3% in 2013.”
People are drowning their sorrows in drugs to offset the unhappiness they feel in everyday life. It doesn’t help that doctors and drug companies are pushing these drugs on people who most of the time, really don’t need them.
Unhappiness has become an epidemic more than the drugs themselves and the drugs are just a way to mask the sadness people feel.
Scott Mautz, the author of “Find the Fire: Ignite Your Inspiration and Make Work Exciting Again” has an interesting take on the unhappiness trap. In an interview with Dr. Annie McKee (University of Pennsylvania) she states “The helplessness trap is the most dangerous of all. When you feel disempowered, like a victim of your circumstances, it’s a dangerous place to be as it’s hard to take bold steps.”
This type of trap sneaks up on us over time and forces us to make bad decisions which we regret having to deal with.
But sometimes, we’re our worst enemies.
Here Are 5 Ways You Can End The Unhappiness Trap Without Going Crazy Or Falling Into Depression
1- STOP COMPLAINING
If you notice, most people who are unhappy seem to complain about everything all the time. They put so much emphasis on their complaints but do nothing to make their lives better. It’s as if they need to complain to feel important in some kind of weird way. They keep their minds and hearts focus on life’s negative aspects instead of feeling all the positivity going on around. they end up blind to life… just their own pain and heartache.
When you stop complaining you take the emphasis off of your complaints and back on to your own responsibility. Responsible people are happier because they are dealing with life the best they can and live with their decisions whether good or bad.
Ken Wert, the founder of Meant 2 Be Happy Blog states, “The habit of complaint is a self-inflicted wound. It darkens horizons and amplifies the ugly. Never ignore warning signs or hide from reality, of course. Just don’t dwell so exclusively on it.”
2- STOP BLAMING OTHERS
Don’t you hate it when people refuse to blame themselves for all the things happening in their life? They look at life as a garden filled with weeds which they planted but don’t want the responsibility of pruning away the bad . It’s always someone else’s fault, someone else’s responsibility and we keep the focus on who, what and where instead looking inward and see where we went wrong and more importantly, how we can fix the situation.
Blame is a trap that is self-inflicted and a band aid does not heal the wound. It is forever left to fester and infect others..
3- STOP COMPARING
Those who are unhappy use comparison to make themselves feel better. They compare their situation to others, themselves to others and see things in a distorted type of funhouse mirror where everything is not as it appears to be.
Some people go their entire lives dissatisfied with how they look, how they feel because they can’t live up to what others appear to be. They copy the outward appearance of others but don’t know or understand what that person feels on the inside. We’ve all become clones of one another while distancing ourselves from the emotional part that makes us who we are.
It’s time to embrace your uniqueness and love who you are. God made you this way for a reason and He loves you just the way you are. Why try to be something you’re not just to please people who don’t appreciate the real you.
4- STOP WORRYING SO MUCH
Stop being a worry-wart! If you are plagued with various fears, middling doubt and overwhelming anxiety you’ll find that life will send very few things you can find joy in.
Worry doesn’t solve any problem. Instead, be cognizant of what you are going through but work at solving your problems in a healthy way.
Everyone has problems but those who take them to the next step with worry rob themselves of a peaceful existence clouded with doubts and causes both mental and physical harm.
Learn to trust God that things will work out. Hand your problems, doubts and fears to God and let things work out according to His will. Trust that things will work out alright. Ken Wert goes on to say, “Let go of the need to control. Take reasonable precautions, of course, but not out of fear that something terrible will otherwise happen, but out of respect for your health and well-being.”
5- LEARN TO LIVE WITH GRATITUDE
If there is one thing most people lack it is the idea of being grateful for what they have. Being jealous of others and what they have, the lives they lead or what they do is a recipe for true unhappiness.
The happiest people on earth know that being grateful brings inner peace and counting your blessings makes you a more positive person.
Here Are 3 Ways Gratitude Can Help You To Be A Happier Person
- It reminds you of what’s important in life
- It reminds you to thank others and put others first
- It reminds you of the positive things in your life
Once you understand what makes you unhappy you can change those things and turn your unhappiness into a life of gratitude and thankfulness. That is where happiness exists. Each one of us has the chance to be happy but it’s up to each person to work at being happy. It’s your decision. Make the best of it!