“It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.”
Nearly two months ago, I heard a simple message at church that has stuck with me ever since. I refer back to it frequently in my mind whenever I find myself feeling dissatisfied.
At the end of August, I reached a milestone in my life. I made the leap into a lifetime commitment of marriage to the man I couldn’t live without. As many girls do, I’ve looked forward to this chapter of my life with longing since elementary school.
I’ve noticed something that happens, though, when you’ve reached one of life’s great moments or achieved something you’ve longed for for many years. Human nature takes over, and you are accosted by the “Monster of More,” as my pastor calls it.
I found my Soul Mate. The love of my life. The elusive “One” that many people are never fortunate enough to find.
What I wasn’t quite prepared for was the fact that almost immediately after tying the knot, my brain continued on its search for even greater happiness and achievement. When will we find our dream home? When will we be ready to add children to the picture? How can we become wealthy? How do I gain more meaningful friendships in my life? Can I find a less stressful job where I will feel more appreciated?
Don’t fret if this is you. It’s completely normal.
The well-established psychological theory behind this phenomenon of always wanting more is known as the hedonic treadmill.
According to the theory, people tend to maintain a steady level of happiness even after a positive life event occurs. To be sure, there will be a spike in happiness, but ultimately we will return to our base happiness levels. We habituate to the things or achievements that we obtain, and suddenly we can’t get no satisfaction.
The short and simple message that really impacted me at that church service was this:
The only way to keep the ugly and insatiable Monster of More at bay is to regularly practice 3 things:
This has truly become a mantra for me over the past couple of months.
Religious and spiritual practices from around the globe agree that cultivating a sense of gratitude for all God/the Universe has given you is healthy for the soul and psyche.
The next step is being content with your current circumstances (unless of course, something really needs to change for your own safety or well-being). In most cases, though, we are not in a state of crisis, but perhaps bored during a long day at work when feelings of dissatisfaction arise.
Finally, generosity prevents you from clinging too tightly to the things you have, which diminishes your fear of losing wealth/material items and makes you realize that maybe you don’t need more, after all.
Whenever I find myself grumpily and anxiously plotting the path to an even better life, I stop and remind myself, look at how damn lucky you are!
A honeymoon lunch of savory & sweet crepes