Understand Other People

Better communication through a better understanding of behavior

Do Your Kids and/or Your Job Deplete Your Happiness?

Here are a few steps to ensure your happiest years continue.

The recent study published in TIME showed the “happiest ages” to be 23 years old and 69 years old. Looking at the two spectrums in life, there is an interesting correlation. For most people at 23, they are just starting their career or job and probably haven’t had children yet. For those 69, they are still young enough and healthy enough to feel good, but they might no longer work (it is retirement age, after all) and most likely their children have left the nest.

Does this mean the correlating factors for unhappiness are jobs and kids? That’s most of what takes place in between 24 and 68, isn’t it? We blossom into our careers and work regularly, if we can. And we raise our families. Most people struggle to “balance” work and home life and feel as though one or the other, at most times, isn’t getting the attention necessary for success. Many people wish their boss was different, that they had pursued a different career, or that their kids wouldn’t be so exhausting and difficult! For too many people, the in-between ages represent lost opportunity or letdown.

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There are ways to ensure that your happiest years continue between 23 and 69, and even after that. Here are a few steps you can take – even if your toddler is screaming, your boss is hard to please, and your teenager totaled the car for the third time this month….

1. Re-evaluate your measurements and expectations. Too many people think that every day should be a “good” day and if something goes wrong, it turns into a “bad” day. You always have the choice to stop what you are doing and count the blessings you do have. Can you sit up and read this? Can you get up and do something – anything at all? Can you speak? Can you hear? There are gifts all around us. Burned coffee and a tough commute shouldn’t be the things that distract you each day. Focus on the blessings.

2. Cut other people a break. Kids are kids. Annoying? Yes, sometimes. Engaging and loving? Yes, sometimes. We all are – both annoying and engaging at times. Why do we look at others and think they should behave a certain way, when we all have our good times and our difficult ones? Don’t be so hard on other people. Realize that most of the time each person is doing the best they can with what they have emotionally available to them. Life is about learning.

3. Find happiness within. One thing I notice at the holidays are the advertisements for the “perfect gift.” Unfortunately many people look for the “perfect career” or the “perfect mate” or the “perfect children.” Nothing in life is perfect. You can’t find it by looking outside and hoping something so wonderful will happen that all will be well. Start finding happiness within. Today. Don’t wait for life to bring it to you.

4. Make a thankful list each night and read it each morning. Before you go to bed – instead of filling your mind with the bills that aren’t paid, what went wrong that day, the worry you have about your child’s education, etc. – make a list of what’s good. If you have to find the smallest thing, find it. List out the things you are thankful for and read it before you go to sleep. Find things throughout the day to add to the list. When my kids were little, we had a “Thankful” box that everyone had to place slips into each day. We read them as a family each night. Remind yourself of all the good things that happen.

5. Make “This too shall pass” your mantra. Whether it is a wonderful event or a difficult one, it will pass. It may take years, or even decades, but nothing lasts forever. Try to keep an attitude that everything has a life span. Don’t get too immersed in anything. Live in the now and remember that each moment, even as you have read this blog, moves quickly. Don’t waste your moments being unhappy.

Beverly D. Flaxington teaches at Suffolk University.

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