Are Your Expectations About Happiness Causing You Pain?

Are Your Expectations About Happiness Causing You Pain?

It is not uncommon for people to spend their whole life waiting to start living. ~ Eckhart Tolle.

Are you finding it difficult to enjoy life? Maybe happiness keeps slipping through your fingers. If you are driven by what lies in the future, then this is most likely the problem. Goals are a wonderful and necessary part of a fulfilling life, providing direction and a sense of accomplishment.

Yet, there is a dark-side to goal setting. Because they are future orientated your hopes, dreams, thoughts and feelings can become more about the potential outcome than the present moment.

Take the example of being single and wanting a partner to share your life with. It’s a reasonable goal to join a dating site and take advantage of opportunities to meet new people. But what if you find yourself thinking about this constantly. You might find yourself daydreaming about how much better your life will be. What he or she might look like. Even imagining your wedding day…

See the problem! It’s pretty difficult to enjoy life now when you are caught up with your hoped for future. And it can generate some very distressing emotions, such as stress, tension, anxiety, overwhelm, worry, dissatisfaction, and even envy.

Take a moment to check this for yourself by completing the following statement. “I will be happy when…” You might finish this with “when I own my own home”, “when I get out of this job”, “when I get pregnant”, “when I don’t have to live with chronic pain“, or ”when I’m out of this relationship”.

The irony, is the present moment ‘is’ your life, the future does not exist. And every moment you spend there, is another moment you are not living.

Looking for distractions when life feels hard is nothing new. 

It could be exercise, eating, alcohol, TV, work, study, and social media. The list is endless. And of course none of these are problematic in themselves. But when distractions are used excessively as coping mechanisms they generate more suffering in your life.

Lost in thoughtWhy? Because distraction, in this case, thinking/dreaming/imagining your fictitious future, requires constant resistance to the present moment. And according to Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness,this overthinking (ruminating) impairs your ability to solve problems, saps your motivation, and interferes with your concentration and initiative. Sound familiar!

Whereas, being engaged in the present moment empowers you to take positive action. Whats more, emotions such as contentment, joy, peace, gratitude, and satisfaction are only available in the ‘now’.

Current and ongoing research has found mindfulness to be effective with:

 Anxiety

♦ Stress

♦ Depression

♦ Chronic pain

♦ Substance abuse

♦ Eating disorders

♦ Increased levels of empathy and self-compassion

So, how do you live in the now when life is throwing you curve balls?

MAKING THE SHIFT TO MINDFUL LIVING

A good place to start is using this simple technique from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. You can read more about this in Russ Harris’s book The Happiness Trap.

Take Ten Breaths

Practice this throughout your day, and especially if you notice you’re getting caught up in your thoughts and feelings.

♥   Take ten slow, deep breaths. Focus on the rise and fall of your rib cage. Notice all the sensations of the breath as it flows through the body – how your shoulders lift, and chest rises, followed by your belly. Notice the experience of the breath leaving your body, the belly deflating, followed by the chest, and your shoulders dropping as it passes out through your nostrils.

♥   Now notice any thoughts and images. See if you can let them come and go as if they’re leaves floating down the stream of consciousness. As a new image or thought appears gently acknowledge its presence and let it flow on by. You might find it useful to label each new thought or image as “thinking” as you let it go. As you do this keep your attention on the breath – watching the wave of the breath flowing in and out of your body.

Now and again a thought will ‘hook you’ and you will lose track of the exercise. As soon as you notice this, congratulate yourself for noticing and gently bring your attention back to the breath, back into the body.

♥   I suggest you read this through a couple of times before practicing it. How about pausing and doing it now.

In this fast paced world it’s easy to get caught up in the trap of future thinking, waiting for happiness. However, resisting the present moment is incrementally robbing you of your life. So give-up the struggle and embrace your life today.

To see how mindful you are take the Mindfulness quiz HERE.

Lets Talk

If you are struggling to find joy in your daily life, then please call me for a Free 15 minute consultation. We can talk about what is going on for you and I can answer any questions you might have. If I am with a client I will get back to you as soon as I can.

or if you are ready to book now

Lets Talk

If you are struggling to find joy in your daily life, then please call me for a Free 15 minute consultation. We can talk about what is going on for you and I can answer any questions you might have. If I am with a client I will get back to you as soon as I can.

or if you are ready to book now

Mindfulness Quiz: How present are you in your life?

Mindfulness Quiz:
How present are you in your life?

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