A series on how to cultivate more happiness
Recently I was asked to do a talk on how to improve our mental health. Big Topic! In preparation for the talk, I was reflecting on many recent conversations I have had with clients. Specifically about how it feels to live in our society today- Post-Covid. Many of my clients were expressing their concerns about people being on edge and volatile. And that they don’t feel safe expressing their thoughts or opinions for fear they will be attacked and it upsetting or damaging a relationship. So many of us are experiencing threat and fear.
I have been thinking a lot about the role threat and fear play in our lives. How valuable it is and also how it can get in the way of pleasant emotions. I decided to focus my talk on how to cultivate happiness given our current societal circumstances. Don’t worry, I’m not going to ask you to put your head in the sand and pretend that hard things are not happening. And I’m not going to ask you to engage in toxic positivity (the pressure to only display positive emotions and have an unrealistic expectation of a perfect life all the time) I am going to suggest that we have more balance in what we allow ourselves to experience. Join me in this three part series as I share key research findings on how to cultivate more happiness in our lives.
Three Key Findings
The three key research findings I am going to focus on include:
1) The Happiness Formula – an equation that distills years of research into practical and easy-to-understand guidelines for living a happier life.
2) Changing our minds – understanding how our minds work and learning strategies to make lasting changes for the better.
3) The impact that Relationships have on our happiness. We will discuss strategies on how to expand and improve our social networks.
Before we get into the key research findings… let’s talk about why cultivating happiness in our lives is so important and what gets in the way.
How We Got Stuck
We are living in challenging times.
Let’s face it, we are living in challenging times. These past couple of years have been extremely challenging for most of us. Dealing with the pandemic, political divisions, racial tension, gun violence, environmental changes, and financial and economic challenges simultaneously has strained even the most skillful in managing stress and anxiety.
Many people are struggling to deal with these extremely challenging circumstances. Unfortunately, anxiety, depression, and suicide have increased dramatically. Before the pandemic suicide had been declining for two consecutive years (2019 and 2020) and then in 2021, suicide increased by 4%.
The pandemic has affected our overall mental health and well-being in a variety of ways, including
- job loss
- financial instability
During the pandemic (early 2021) 4 in 10 adults reported symptoms consistent with anxiety and depression. That’s 40 percent! In February 2023 this number was down to 3 in 10 adults. Additionally, drug overdose deaths increased by over 50% during the pandemic largely due to fentanyl. Alcohol-induced deaths also increased during the pandemic.
We are just at the beginning of our understanding of the impact these societal changes are having on us.
So what do we do about it? Many people unfortunately, are turning to drugs, alcohol, violence, and other unhealthy coping mechanisms to try to cope with these challenges.
How We Move Forward
So much of what we face feels like there is not much we can do. We can vote and get involved in causes that matter most to us. Run for political office. Educate ourselves. Make decisions about what we support financially. Yes, all of these things are important to promote positive change. But, there is something missing. What I am focusing on in this series is how to help us be our best selves so we have the mental resources and capacity to bring our highest level of thinking to solve these extremely important problems.
This series is about what we can do for ourselves to take proactive steps to build our resilience and reserves. The ability to cultivate authentic happiness is a vital life skill – a skill that we need to strengthen and restore our well-being and the well-being of others. And maybe more importantly learning how to cultivate happiness will allow us to have access to the parts of our brains that are better at solving problems. Next week we will dive into the Happiness Formula, see you then!
Dr. Lee LeGrice is a psychotherapist with offices in Denver, Colorado, and Fort Worth, Texas. In her practice, she focuses on two main areas: relationships and anxiety. A specialty of hers is helping people create safe, secure, loving relationships.
Let’s face it, relationships are challenging! Healthy relationships don’t just happen, they take work! She feels passionate about putting attachment theory into practice for herself and her clients. And she wants the same for you.