Are you happy with your life?
If you are, congratulations! A cynic would say, "Enjoy it while you can. It won't last."
Life can be a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows, successes and failures, good fortune and bad luck.
It's natural to react emotionally to those ups and downs in school, family, work, finances, health and relationships.
We all feel grief with the loss of friends and loved ones. We feel down when we lose a job or feel lonely. We can feel anxious when the future seems uncertain and our lives feel out of our control.
Sometimes we can get stuck in a negative emotional state, such as depression and anxiety. Our emotions may then limit our range of thinking, and it is our thoughts that shape the lens with which we see the world.
Have you ever met someone who was chronically happy?
I don't mean euphoric, manic or unrealistically optimistic, but rather content and at peace, positive and engaged in life.
They're not on drugs, and they haven't necessarily had easier lives than the rest of us.
The difference is the lens with which they see their lives.
We can get stuck in the negative aspects of our situation - the shadows of reality. Lost in this darkness, we see no light. It shapes our mood and our sense of control.
It limits our behaviour; we continue to walk only in the shadows not realizing that venturing out of them - a few steps at a time - can profoundly change our perspective.
The chronically happy see their reality with more subtlety and perhaps more creativity. Knowing that our thoughts shape our feelings, they choose to see the positive in their circumstances - what they can control.
What each of us can control, regardless of our circumstances is how we think and what we do. Knowing this returns the locus of control to us.
The world is a little less hostile, unpredictable and dark than it first appears.
We can examine the way we are thinking - about our work, school, relationships and our selves, and ask, "Is this way of thinking making me feel better? Is it helping to improve my circumstances? Is it moving me to positive action?"
That last question is key because the flip side of a negative emotional state is a goal. That realization can be a transformative insight.
If you're not happy with your life and you feel stuck, what can you do to make things better? What is your goal?
If you feel lonely or anxious in different social situations, your goal might be to meet more people, make more friends and feel more at ease and confident.
If you feel anxious or worried about many things, your goal might be to feel relaxed and at peace.
If you feel down, your goal may be to be happy or content.
The next steps would be to engage in activities you enjoy and hang out with people who make you feel good about yourself.
Today, what small steps can you take towards your goal?
If you remain stuck in the shadows and can't find your way out alone, talk to your family physician or another mental health professional.
Dr. Davidicus Wong is a family physician at the PrimeCare Medical Centre. His Healthwise column appears regularly in this paper. You can read more about achieving your positive potential for health at davidicuswong.wordpress. com.
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