From the moment the day starts, you know that challenges await you (not the good kind – the ones that you dread). You’re putting out fires or doing a job that feels meaningless. On these types of days, you wake up knowing that your day is going to be another unfulfilling one – a day where the clock feels like it’s moving backwards. No matter how much you try to change your perspective and your mood, nothing shifts.
We’ve all had days (sometimes months!) like this.
Then you hear a little voice inside of you that says: “If you just had _________________ (fill in the blank here with any of the following: the right relationship, a great new pair of shoes, more dessert, a bigger house, a better body, more money, a job you loved, a great vacation, a new gadget) then you would be happy.”
That voice inside you is your internal Happiness Scavenger. Your Happiness Scavenger will do anything it can to hunt down a so-called “fix” for your empty, sad or anxious feelings. Your Happiness Scavenger (or H.S. as I like to call mine) comes from a good place – it wants to help soothe you, ease your distress, and get you smiling. Your H.S. believes that you’re supposed to be happy and if you aren’t, something is wrong.
Both you and your Happiness Scavenger want to believe…
…that with a little effort, there’s a one-time fix that will solve all your woes in one purchase, one new healthy habit, one relationship or one shift in your circumstances.
When your Happiness Scavenger initially devises an attempted resolution for those not-so-pleasant feelings, it seems like the best idea you’ve ever had. You’re sure that this new “thing” will wipe away the yuckies in no time. Yet on some deep down level, when you get really real with yourself, you know that a new outfit won’t make you into a happy-go-lucky-happy-all-the-time-human.
Deep down, you know that nothing on the outside can magically heal what’s on the inside.
You avoid looking inside because the perceived outside solution seems so much shinier, prettier, easier and more fun. The problem is, it doesn’t work.
Your Happiness Scavenger drives you to external attempts for healing your internal wounds. Your H.S. looks in all the wrong places for all the wrong things…and so your lack of fulfillment amplifies. The search for a “fix” continues (each time a little more desperately than the last).
It takes a lot of self-awareness to realize when your Happiness Scavenger is at the wheel and you’re just along for the ride.
Here are some hints and tips to help you get your power back!
Hint #1: As you find yourself adding more “stuff” to your shopping cart, are you in touch with your emotions? If not, get mindful. Pause and notice what emotions are arising. Then, peel away those surface level emotions and connect with the emotions that might be getting covered over by these more appealing top-level emotions. Notice what sensations are arising in your body. Do a deep check-in and see where this need originates within you.
Hint #2: When you’re on a mission for those new shoes or that Hollywood movie magic relationship and you haven’t paused to see what you’re really experiencing within, that’s a sign that your Happiness Scavenger might be on the loose. Stop to ask yourself what’s feeling unfulfilled within you (sans the new clothes or the new partner)? Ask yourself, what wounds are still open? What parts of you are calling out for some love and attention? Do some self-care and self-soothing to tend to those parts first.
Hint #3: Each time you seek out “the next best thing” when you thought you got it last week (and the week before), that’s a sign! Notice if your imagination has you playing out scenes in your head about what your life will be like when you have that perfect _____________________(fill in the blank). Catch yourself in the momentum of your fantasy life/identity/relationship/body and instead, explore holding off on chasing the external fix to be with your actual reality.
Unfortunately, there is no magic key to healing. There is no golden ticket to never-ending joy. There is no elite entry into the land of happiness.
This is not breaking news to your rational mind, but while in the throes of feeling bad, your Happiness Scavenger may finds its way into your head to have its voice be heard.
It’s your mission, if you choose to accept it, to remind your Happiness Scavenger that there’s no filling that emptiness with anything outside of you.
To generate more happiness: take control back by reminding your H.S. that it doesn’t come from the outside, start looking within, and do the work without allowing the noise of the H.S. to pull you toward yet another short-lived feel-good moment that never quite lives up to what you had imagined.