How to Find Happiness When Very Bad Things Happen

How to cope with fear and suffering.

Posted Feb 09, 2014

When bad things happen (which they will) you can both honor your fear and suffering, and also learn how to direct your attention away from it.

You can find a way to connect more to the human family, because pain and suffering are as much a part of our experience as happiness and joy. You can learn to stop comparing yourself to others, which will only keep you riveted on the unfairness of life.

You can have better quality of life each day if you practice focusing on what you still have. You are terminally ill, but you love the quality of light that comes through the window. You can no longer walk the trail, but you can sit outside and smell the night air. You have friends and relatives you love and value. The worst has happened, but you can watch the insects and birds do their work.

There is still pleasure in what is near at hand.

Many clients have told me that writing “a gratitude list” every night is a helpful ritual. “I can hear the music.” “I have a cat who loves me no matter what.” “I can see the sky today.”

Too often, what goes well goes unnoticed. John Kabat Zinn observes, “Your lack of a headache is not front-page news for your cerebral cortex.” But we can learn to use fear, pain, and grief to bring the “ordinary” into focus.

Many folks in decent health are quite certain they want to be pushed off a cliff as soon as they lose their independence and “quality of life.” The day comes when this happens, and they may discover simple pleasures and then wish to see another day.

“Whee!” says the snail riding on the turtle’s back! Everything is a matter of perspective.