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Happiness, Your Relationship to Self and Your Relationship to Others

If someone could figure out how to bottle “happiness” they would be rich beyond their wildest dreams.  As much as happiness is natural for some, it’s not for others.  Those fortunate enough to consider themselves generally “happy” often don’t realize that it’s a more elusive experience for others, often for reasons that make good sense related to past experiences.

According to an article from the Greater Good Science Center in Berkeley, CA., there are “6 Habits of Happiness.”  They are:

  • mindfulness
  • gratitude
  • forgiveness
  • social connections
  • exercise
  • being kind

I say it’s a big part of the story but not all of it as emotional wounds can run very deep, open wounds that have never properly healed and because of this more vulnerable to their band-aids “falling off.”  But if these wounds are given proper attention while practicing the “habits of happiness,” now that can really pack a positive punch!

As a therapist who helps people remove the obstacles that prevent happiness individually and in their relationships, I continue to observe how people experience happiness or allow themselves to experience it.   I see this in two paradigms, falling under the categories of, “relationship to self” and “relationship to others.”  They can be used as a loose assessment.  As you read through each, stop and close your eyes for a moment to reflect upon what comes up for you.  Make a mental note of areas for possible work.

Your Relationship to Self

  • Self-esteem:  How do you view yourself?  Are you a valuable human being?  Are there unattended old wounds?
  • Authenticity:  Are you honest about your feelings or do you try to minimize or hide them?
  • Managing Emotions:  Do you allow distressing feelings to overtake you?  Do you beat yourself up?
  • Life Purpose:  Are you satisfied with your career or other roles you play?  Is there meaning and passion in your life?
  • Self-care:  Do you know what it looks like to take care of yourself?  Do you do it?

Your Relationship to Others

  • View of others/the world:  Do you generally believe people can be trusted?
  • Intimate partnerships:  Have you had loving, healthy relationships?  Do you believe you deserve to give and receive love?  Are your relationships stable or volatile?
  • Family:  Are you free to give and receive love to your children, parents and extended family?  Are there obstacles blocking these connections such as diffuse boundaries or old unhelpful patterns of relating?
  • Friendships:  Are you connected to supportive others, whether it be two people or dozens?  If this is not important to you have you examined why?  If your friendships have not been healthy, why is this so?
  • Life Balance:  Do your scales tip over so far onto one side or the other that there are consequences for your relationships – or for yourself?

Are there areas you could benefit from working on individually or in your relationships?  Though there are no known “happiness elixirs,” what I do know that a good therapist can hold the torch through the dark alleys of your experiences, helping you to stop allowing your past to impact your present and future.  If you do that along with weaving in the “6 happiness habits” from above, you’re doing the work and can only benefit.

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT is the creator of LoveAndLifeToolbox.com with emotional and relationship health articles, guides, courses and other tools for individuals and couples. She is a frequent consultant for the media having appeared in CNN.com, HuffingtonPost.com, MensHealth.com and others. Lisa has a private practice in Marin County, CA and offers Emotional Health and Relationship Consultations via email, phone or video conference.

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