A few years ago, when I was desperately grappling for something to help me with my crippling depression, I decided that Buddhists seemed to have it all figured out. I bought a bunch of books about Buddhism and I set off to try and find out the ways of the Buddha.
There was a section in a beginners book to Buddhism that really resonated with me, it’s even stuck with me through all these years. The section talked about the belief that we create our own misery, that the want for things we do not need to survive, whether that is material, spiritual or emotional, creates misery.
I get it! The misery comes from wanting things I can’t have!
It may surprise you how often your own misery has been caused by this very belief. Think back at all the times that you’ve felt down or upset about something, how many times has that been caused by the act of not having, or being unable to have something you really wanted? Did you actually need it?
The never ending cycle of wanting
It’s so easy to fall into a never ending cycle of wanting something, once you’ve given in to temptation, it has you hooked.
I’ll use smartphones for this example:
You are miserable because all of your friends have better phones than you, so you head on out and buy yourself a shiny new phone to make the misery go away. Things are great for a while, until a new model comes out, all your friends upgrade and you’re right back to where you started.
Or, if you want to apply it to relationships:
You are miserable because you’re single, so you get yourself a partner, but things aren’t working out, you start to become miserable in your relationship, so you dump them and you’re back to being single again. Then the singledom misery starts setting in once again and history repeats itself.
Of course these are all extreme examples, but you get the gyst!
Being grateful for what you have, and accepting what will be
The general lesson to be learned from the whole ‘we create our own misery’ debate, is that we can never be truly happy until we have learned to be grateful for what we have.
It may sound like a cliche or a broken record, but gratitude is something that is taken for granted. Having gratitude and practicing being grateful not only means you are happy with what you have, it means you are content with having less, able to create a happy and sustainable life and helps you radiate this wellbeing to people in your life.
Open yourself up to new possibilities
Being grateful for the here and now also opens you up to a world of possibilities. When you stop trying to grasp something new and shiny every second of every day, you start to allow the universe to take action.
We are often so obsessed with creating our destiny, that we forget that life can throw some seriously amazing opportunities our way. Most of the best things that ever happen to us, happen when we stop trying to force them to happen.
This doesn’t mean I’m telling you to give up on your dreams or goals, but instead of putting your wellbeing on the line to get your hearts desire, why not slow things down? Think about whether the thing you want is actually the thing you need in order to be happy.
Of course it’s easy for me to say, I believe everything happens for a reason, simply because that’s my personal experience. Whenever I’ve really wanted something, it’s only once I give up exhausting myself to get it, that it finds its way into my life.
How to put a stop to the cycle of misery and reclaim your life
If you are firmly stuck in this cycle, which many adults are, there’s a few things you can do to break it:
- Start a gratitude journal – you can find some inspo right here.
- Think about the reason why you want the thing so badly. There may be an underlying need to be excepted, to be loved or to feel at ease within yourself.
- Plan ahead – ok so you got the thing, now what, what will that mean in 1 month, 1 year, 5 years etc. You might realise that it’s not as nice or shiny once you start thinking about it in the long run.
- Write down all the reasons why you can live without the thing, this will help you put your current life in perspective to your ‘head’ life as I like to call it. You know the one, where we are the hero of our own story and everything has a happy ending.
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