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The Happiness Trap & World Suicide Prevention Day

(note small tech problem in the beginning and then I talk 🙂

Today is World Suicide Prevention day.

Earlier in the week, an Aussie football legend smashed his car into a tree near Ballarat in an apparent suicide.

A mother from my son’s school was buried this week after apparently suiciding as well.

People seem more stressed, unhappy and mentally ill than ever before and yet here in Australia, we have a high standard of living compared with the rest of the world. We have access to health, education, and support. Yes, there are things that can be improved, but on comparison of places to live around the world, we are very blessed.

I am reading The Happiness Trap: Stop Struggling and Start Living by Dr Russ Harris, MD. This book looks at the way we trap ourselves in the pursuit of happiness and how we can use ACT - Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to deal with the stresses and pain of life.

When we were hunter-gathers, our brains were programmed to keep us safe. We are wired to look for problems. But now that we live in relative safety, we are still wired this same way. Our brains are incredibly skilled at predicting and avoiding danger. And we spend a lot of time worry about things that mostly don’t ever happen.

The other thing we are wired for is belonging as this is how we survived - if we were kicked out of the tribe or group - we probably wouldn’t survive. So our brains are looking for signs of rejection and comparing us with others.

So as we have evolved, our minds are inevitably destined to suffer psychologically. To compare, evaluate and criticize ourselves, to focus on what we are dissatisfied with, and imagine the worst. So no wonder it is hard for us to be happy.

In the West, we are conditioned to chase Happiness and I think this is adding to the mental health problems we are seeing.

So perhaps it is time we Rethink Happiness.

Normally, we think of happiness as a sense of pleasure, gladness or gratification.

We chase happiness because moments of happiness feel good. But they don’t last.

A more useful and helpful meaning, as described by Dr Russ Harris, is a rich, full and meaningful life.

When we take action on things that truly matter deep in our hearts, when we move in directions we consider valuable and worthy, when we clarify what we stand for in life and act accordingly, then our lives become rich, full and meaningful. This is not fleeting - it provides a profound sense of a life well lived.

I think this is a much more meaningful description of happiness and something that is more achievable over our lifetime. Life inevitably involves suffering and grief. These cannot be avoided, no matter how much mindfulness and mediation you do. Of course, you will feel more resourced perhaps if you do have these practices, but as we all know, grief can be overwhelming and we can’t just say affirmations and our grief will go away.

Dr Harris shares four myths about happiness:

Myth No. 4:Happiness is the natural state for all human beings
Myth No.2: If you’re not happy your defective
Myth No. 3: To create a better life, we must get rid of negative feelings
Myth No. 4: You should be able to control what you think and feel

When we challenge these myths it takes a lot of pressure and guilt off us.

Stay tuned for more information about what I am learning from The Happiness Trap.

If you are struggling with your own mental health, please get some support.

If you are grieving today over the loss of someone to suicide, my heart goes out to you.

Much love


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