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Finding Happiness — Why Self-Help Books/Videos Don’t Work

Written by: Sarika Kishore, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

Have you tried several self-help books/videos on learning “How to be happy” and wondered why the euphoria didn’t last long? Have you watched/read “The Secret” and then lost the inspiration to follow the principles a few months later?

I have been in the same boat. 20 years ago, I started struggling with depression and anxiety. I was diagnosed with a unipolar mood disorder and was prescribed medication. Reading self-help, motivational books were my go-to practice to find solutions.


The internet was catching on, so I could download and read a lot of them. I tried to find a way to be happy through these books.


I am sure you have looked up happiness at least once and have gone through a ton of content. From my research on depression, I found many different books and channels that contained great methods to learn to be happy, but nothing had a long-lasting transformative effect.

I still could not be happy.


Then a miracle happened – I found a therapist and a mentor at the same time and started working with them. The following three lessons are what I discovered in that journey.


1. Happiness is an attitude.

You can choose to look at the worst-case scenario of a challenge or choose to find a solution to the problem. If you are actively seeking a solution, your attitude towards the problem changes.


Any progress you make brings you satisfaction and contentment and propels you towards conquering the challenge. This creates a sense of happiness because you are not sitting back and letting the problem overwhelm you.


This realization hit me hard and has transformed me into an optimist. An everyday example from my life, when my kids were leaving home to join their respective universities, I was suddenly faced with the challenge of living alone.


All kinds of scenarios started going through my head, my kids might lose focus and become addicts. I might fall sick or get injured and would have nobody to help! I might feel like I have no reason to wake up and do anything! I am sure you get the drift.


Ultimately, I had to sit down and recognize that I was really nervous about being totally alone and needed to find a new purpose for my life once the kids had left home.


Now, this was a very workable problem. I looked for and started an entry-level job and decided to make it work for me.


Giving myself a reason to find my way out of loneliness and do what I needed to do, helped me alleviate my anxiety and made me happy. I had regained control over my life! My life would have taken a different turn if I had allowed my fears and the worst-case scenarios to overwhelm me and destroy my sense of well-being.


Now you might wonder why you should believe me? I looked and found several studies supporting this suggestion by my therapist.

  • Kim and Lim (2012) found that optimism is a significant predictor of the psychological well-being of college students.

  • Gorsy and Panwar (2016) found that optimism is a significant predictor of subjective happiness among working women.

  • Ferguson and Goodwin (2010) found that optimism is a predictor of both subjective and psychological well-being among seniors. Thus, optimism leads to increased happiness among people at every stage in life.

Hey! Don’t judge me. I am a skeptic till I find some proof. Once I was convinced that this is true, I did make changes to my attitude and look. I am here coaching others to do the same.


2. Happiness is an emotion, not an event.

If you are attaching your happiness to an event/outcome, you are short-changing yourself. An event/outcome can give you a momentary feeling of happiness, but what happens when it’s over? How would you feel happy again? Pursue another outcome? Waiting to get happy based on a certain result actually leads to anxiety rather than happiness.


But If you treat happiness as an emotion, it will be a reaction to a thought/word/action by you or others. When happiness is a reaction to any of the above, you have a chance at continuous happiness – you can think, speak, listen to or act on those things that bring you happiness. Realizing this gave me an immense sense of control over my happiness. My happiness was no longer dependent on external action. I could make myself feel happy whenever I wanted – whew! What a relief to know (Typical type-A response)!


Now, I practice meditation and mindfulness to achieve a calm state of mind. This allows me to stay emotionally stable and feel happier.


I try to be helpful whenever possible, even if it is as small an act as helping someone with directions or smiling and wishing someone a good morning on the streetcar. This makes me happy and feels good about myself.


There is rising support among academics for happiness to be considered an emotion.

Goldman (2017) argued that just as emotions are analyzed as multicomponent states, including judgments, feelings, physical symptoms, and behavioral dispositions in response to events, prototypical happiness contains all the same components. Thus the concept of happiness is similar to the concepts of other emotions.


3. Happiness is a practice

Happiness is a long-term transformation, and you can cultivate your own happiness by taking steps to be happy. You can constantly modify your thoughts, beliefs, and values by fact-checking them. If someone/something is making you unhappy – you can check-in and examine what expectations you have from them.


Where are these expectations coming from? Are they personal, cultural, religious, or familial?

Why should these expectations hold value for the others?


Soon you will realize that your own belief, values, and ideals are causing you unhappiness and not the other person/thing.


Others do not have to adhere to your standards of right or wrong. Only you are responsible for those. If your expectations are the problem, then experiment with modifying them, and happiness is yours to have.


This is why the books and videos were not working for me! I was using them to increase my intellectual understanding of the process, but I wasn’t actively making changes. I wasn’t practicing in a focused direction.


Over the last 10 years, since I have been weaned off the medication, I have practiced happiness. It doesn’t mean that I do not experience any challenges, but I keep working on them and find happiness in the process.


So if you are looking for happiness, start working on your attitude and adjusting to how you solve problems.


Self-help books/videos will only inform you of what attitudes you need to change but changing them is on you.


Feeling happy can be a result of your own actions, words, and behaviors. You can feel happy any time by saying or doing something that makes you feel good about yourself. It creates a sense of well-being that cannot be affected by others’ words or actions.


Remember that only practice makes you perfect. Keep practicing happiness, and you will be happier than you have ever been because now you are actively creating happiness rather than accepting misery.


You can become the creator of your own life and embody happiness. Good luck!


Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or visit my website for more info!

 

Sarika Kishore, Brainz Magazine Executive Contributor

Sarika Kishore is a Life Coach who is passionate about helping women rediscover the magic of life. She had battled with depression and anxiety for several years and learned that happiness is an attitude, not an event. A shift in attitude allowed her to reinvent and adjust to any challenge that life threw at her and empowered her to live life on her terms. Now, she shares her strategies and techniques in her signature program "Be The Magician" and helps other women identify, modify and defy their barriers to life and take control of it. Her goal is to help women become more impactful and joyful and create a ripple effect in our society, spreading happiness and hope to others.

 

References:

  • Ferguson, S. J., & Goodwin, A. D. (2010). Optimism and well-being in older adults: The mediating role of social support and perceived control. The International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 71(1), 43-68.

  • Goldman, A. H. (2017). Happiness is an Emotion. The Journal of Ethics, 21(1), 1-16.

  • Gorsy, C., & Panwar, N. (2016). Optimism as a correlate of happiness among working women. The International Journal of Indian Psychology, 3(2), 20-29.

  • Kim, K. M., & Lim, J. H. (2012). Effects of optimism and orientations to happiness on the psychological well-being of college students. Journal of the Korean Home Economics Association, 50(1), 89-101.

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