Reducing Anxiety and Increasing Happiness are two different things

About a year ago, I read somewhere that reducing misery/anxiety/unhappiness, isn’t the same as increasing happiness. I kind of nodded along and shelved this idea… until recently.

Let me explain…

In the last month, for many reasons known and unknown, my anxiety has been really high. I’ve struggled to notice thoughts and images, until they’ve already had a strong, negative impact on the sensations in my body. I’ve found it really difficult to stay in the present moment, being pulled mostly to worries or negative assumptions about the future. When someone doesn’t reply to my email, I’m spiraling.

So I’ve been working at it. I’ve been meditating more; listening to Paul McKenna’s hynosis and NLP visualisations; striving to get myself into more of a routine; and taking action wherever I can to alleviate anxiety. Upon the recommendation of numerous friends now, I’ve also started experimenting with CBD – the totally legal, naturally occurring compound found in the resinous flower of cannabis.

Admittedly, I wasn’t convinced until Mr. G’s motorbike was stolen from the driveway, which led to a whole lot of drama that causes my anxiety to spike HARD. 

panic

So I vaped some CBD – which really isn’t something I ever thought I’d say, let alone do – and was frankly stunned by the results. My mind calmed down and my body relaxed, the pit of anxiety melting into my body. I felt totally clear-headed and calm.

But back to my original point though… happiness, this is not.

Sure, I felt less miserable because I was no longer grappling with fear and panic, but I came back to neutrality, rather than suddenly overflowing with joy.

And I just think this is a useful observation to keep in mind; that working on things that reduce your anxiety and then working on things that increase your happiness are two different beasts – if only so we’re not disappointed when our anxiety drops, but our happiness doesn’t rise.

Yonks ago, I wrote about Dr. Seligman’s different stages of Happiness, part of which is about creating pleasure, engagement, gratitude and meaning in your life. To my mind, this is the way we create happiness.

Managing your anxiety levels – as great as that is – isn’t enough. It’s useful in that it can get you back to level-pegging, but if you want to be fulfilled, you can’t stop there.

After all, if living without anxiety were the answer to everything… how many of us would just spend an eternity on the couch?! 

I find myself feeling fairly neutral this last week or so, but I wouldn’t say I’m as happy as I can be. For that, I know that there’s hard work ahead in certain areas of my life; problems to be solved; changes to be made. I accept it. I’m working on it. And it’s much easier to do so with my anxiety at a manageable level.

 

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