I think one of the places people of my generation have failed in bringing up our kids is that we so badly wanted them to be happy - have this! watch this! go here! distract yourself with this fun thing! - that many of us didn't teach them that unhappiness is a normal part of life.
In fact, it's a crucial part of life.
These are some of the things I'd say to our young now. These are some of the things I'd have made clearer to my own kids if I had it to do over.
You will never escape times of unhappiness. We never taught you how to just sit with the feeling of being unhappy. We never taught you that being unhappy with your lot isn't the worst thing that can happen to you.
We also didn't teach you really effective ways out of your angst. I'm not saying we should go back to the old days, the tough old days where men were men and women ate their young - modern psychology has identified a lot of issues that make humans unhappy and that's a good start. Now we need to start making sure that everyone gets some grounding in how to live with and find their way through, the part of the human condition called misery.
1) Write things down. If you're unhappy with your life as it is, organise it via the written word.
a) what's wrong with my life
b) what can I do to make it better
c) what do I need to take that action and most important of all
d) TAKE THE ACTION.
2) Get out of your own head. Think of others. Do something for someone you love for no reason whatsoever. Do something useful for someone you don't even know for no reason. Do this more than once. Make a weekly habit of it. All of our unhappiness exists within the 2 square foot of space that our body occupies. Move out of that 2 square foot regularly and put yourself into someone else's - it makes you bigger.
3) Get help to take care of the things in life that need to be taken care of. One of the greatest sources of anxiety is the feeling there are a million things you should be doing, that it will be utterly disasterous if they don't get done and you don't even know where to start. Accountants, lawyers, house cleaners - god bless them, every one, for doing for us the things that make us crazy.
4) Learn to meditate. You will hear it over and over through life. Learn to meditate. It stills the grasshopper human mind and gives times of great peace and insight.
5) Dwell on the positive as much as you can. For most of us, there are a dozen positive things happen in our day for every negative one - but the human mind is rigged to look out for danger and so it latches on to every little negative occurrence and lets them crowd out the positive. I don't mean you should ignore the negative - but you should certainly strive consciously to give the positive equal weight in your life. Your family, the roof over your head, your health, books to read, gorgeous nature to moon over - there is so much to be happy for in even the very worst day.
6) Understand that whatever is happening for you now, it will pass. None of it is the end of the world. Understand really truly deeply that we are all miserable sometimes.
Life is good for a while and then it's crap and then it's really really good for a long while and then it's catastrophic suddenly and then later it's good again and ... so on and so forth to the end, where you look back and you really only remember the love and adventure you shared with the people you met up with.
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