The Art of Happiness

Andrew R. Warnecke, MA, LPC

Happiness is a mental state of well-being characterized by
positive emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.

One of my therapeutic duties as a professional counselor is to help clients obtain more happiness. We all are basically motivated by seeking pleasure and avoiding pain Happiness is sometimes an elusive state for all of us at stages throughout their lifetimes. I often say that happiness is not the absence of pain but rather how we deal with our pain. So let’s take a look at what we can do to create more happiness.

We all know by now that bad, hurtful, and unfair things happen in our lives and that there is little to nothing that we can do about it. I have come to the conclusion that what really makes us happy is connectedness with one another. We are social creatures and that’s what makes us so dynamic. We possess the greatest social computer in the natural world. One of the most successful ways to increase happiness in counseling is to find more meaning and purpose in life. I help patients look for ways to get involved in social gatherings or some type of fellowship. The instant digital world we live in makes it really easy to connect superficially but I think it has had an opposite effect, creating a sort of learned helplessness when it comes to creating intimacy. You may call me old school but I am against asking a girl on a date via text.

One of my coaching strategies to help people move toward a feeling of contentedness is self acceptance and love. I think it’s silly that we all have the option to love and accept ourselves and we struggle with being our own worst critic. Going into the new year take a good hard look at how you talk to yourself and you will be amazed more than likely how self critical you can be. If you have the choice to forgive and love yourself unconditionally, and you don’t, you will have a much harder time creating and sharing happiness. We all have our happiest moments and they come from feeling safe and loved. The happiest people I know have hobbies and interests that they can talk about and share with others who have similar interests.

We have to become good at developing long-term strategies for increasing our pleasure and avoiding pain. It is my opinion that many of the people that are diagnosed with depression are not really depressed but depressing. Like running, jumping, and playing, depressing is something that we do, not really something that happens to you. It is seemingly so easy to just go get a diagnosis for depression and get some medication and all will be well. Now let me be clear, some people really benefit greatly from the medication and counseling combo, but you have to do the work. I love the quote, “Faith will move mountains, but you better bring a shovel.” The fact is happiness is a state of mind, a choice to look at your life any way you want to. Charles Swindle wrote that life is 10% what happens and 90% how you deal with it. You have the power to change the way you look at your life and yourself. If you work on validating your existence by sharing yourself with others you will have more opportunities to create happiness.

Another important ingredient to long-term happiness is simply action. I mean active people are happier and more content. We all know that it is so easy to just put something off and say that we will get back to it. I have read many books and articles about how dynamic activity creates a dynamic life. We are all here to live, love, learn, and leave a legacy, so get busy planning that next cool encounter or join that interesting group or take some sort of risk that you may not have otherwise.

Remember the old saying, “People don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan.” Stop and take an appraisal of what you love and go after it with all that you are. If you take good care of yourself and create self love, you will have more love and energy to share. If you feel stuck or like you are having trouble coming up with a life plan, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Counseling really does help people take a good honest look at where they have been, where they are, and where they want to go.

I hope that all of your holidays are filled with love and happiness! In closing, I wanted to share a good story about how to live full and happy life. Check it out:  "Harry Chapin - My Grandfather"