Do you have your resolutions lines up for the New Year yet? How to be happy may be the common thread between all New Year’s resolutions. But could we be overlooking an important factor in getting there?
We all want happiness for ourselves and those we love, right? Whether that means a thinner body, better skin, a new job, different city--it all boils down to feeling good about our lives.
It seems our world has become consumed with the idea of being happy. This “everyone wins” mentality kind of takes the oomph out of achievement and may be glossing over something more important.
One man believed there is more to life than simply being happy. Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl felt that finding meaning in life is the key.
Frankl came to this realization early on in life and it was reinforced during the time he spent in Nazi death camps during the holocaust. The only member of his family to survive the camps, including his pregnant wife, Frankl observed the difference in people who were more resilient to suffering. “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing,” Frankl wrote in his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning“, “the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Whoa. We are not talking a bad day at the office or nagging kids, here. This man figured out how to survive one of the most horrible situations a human can face for days on end. Through positive mental attitude. If that’s not an example for the case of PMA, I don’t know what is.
So, the question is, how do you stay positive in crappy circumstances? We may not be held against our will and tortured daily, but everything is relative and those daily grievances can get you down.
While in the concentration camps, Frankl worked as a therapist to other prisoners. He recalled two suicidal men he helped by getting them to focus on the idea that “life was still expecting something from them”. One man had a young child waiting for him in another country, the other was a scientist with books waiting to be finished.
“A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the “why” for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any “how.” ~Viktor Frankl
In everyday terms this could look like: focusing on playing with your children after a crummy day of work, or envisioning moving on with your life once the divorce is finalized. Keeping your eye on the ball, so to speak, is the way through hard times. And, inevitably, happiness.
Our culture is seemingly obsessed with the how to be happy. If you hop on Amazon and search “happiness” in books, 101 pages of results show up. Yet in 2008 the Center for Disease Control reported only 4 of 10 Americans felt they’d found their life’s purpose. And the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for those ages 15-44 is depression.
Does this mean we are going about seeking happiness all wrong? According to Viktor Frankl, that would be a yes. “To the European,” Frankl wrote, “it is a characteristic of the American culture that, again and again, one is commanded and ordered to ‘be happy.’ But happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to ‘be happy.'”
It may be to our advantage if that New Year’s rez looked more like finding meaning than chasing how to be happy. A good place to start? Adding Frankl’s book to your 2016 reading list.
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