Why happiness doesn’t always mean good feelings

WELL_HappinessTrap_0224

Happiness is not always about feeling good, says physician and therapist Russ Harris. He’s the author of “The Illustrated Happiness Trap,” out next month, with illustrations by Bev Aisbett. We talked to Harris about the enigma of that magical “H” word — and his attitude on what it means to be truly happy might surprise you.

Can you try to describe what happiness is?
Unfortunately, most people think of happiness as a feeling or emotion; they believe that happiness equates to feeling good. But this common idea of happiness creates a trap for us; it sets us up to struggle with reality. Because the things that make life rich, full and meaningful — such as building intimate relationships, raising a family, developing a meaningful career, etc. — do not just give us good feelings; they also give us all plenty of painful feelings, such as anxiety, frustration, fear of failure, disappointment, anger, sadness and so on.

I would encourage people to redefine happiness as “living a rich, full and meaningful life, in which we feel the full range of human emotions, both pleasant and painful.”

How is this book different from all the other books about happiness?
Well for a start, there’s nothing in about “positive thinking” or “positive affirmations” or “challenging negative thoughts.” It’s based on a scientifically proven model called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which uses cutting-edge psychological methods, especially a mental process known as mindfulness, which enables you to handle difficult thoughts and feelings more effectively, so they have much less impact and influence over you.

Is it normal to have self-doubt on the road to happiness?
Self-doubt is normal and natural, and almost everyone has it to some extent; unfortunately most people don’t openly admit to it. If you are stepping out of your comfort zone into a challenging situation with an uncertain outcome, of course you will have self-doubt. How could you possibly not? ACT teaches you how to deal with this through developing mindfulness. In a mental state of mindfulness, you can let all those anxious thoughts and feelings flow through you, without getting caught up in them or swept away by them.

What are your three best tips for getting and staying happy?
1. Each morning, before you get out of bed, connect with your values. Ask yourself, “What kind of mom/dad/friend/worker/boss/student do I want to be today? As I go through my day, how do I want to treat myself, others and the world around me?”

2. Stop thinking of happiness as a good feeling. Instead of asking, “Do I feel happy?” ask, “Am I doing something meaningful, purposeful, aligned with my values?”

3. Bring your full attention to whatever you are doing; engage fully in the task at hand. The more you get distracted by your thoughts and feelings, the less satisfying your activity will be.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Cabbie tried to sexually assault passenger with kids…

NYPD is on the lookout for a taxi driver suspected of trying to sexually assault a female passenger while her three kids were in the car.

Breaking: National

Peter Theo Curtis: American released by Syrian militants…

An American writer freed this week from two years in the captivity of insurgents in Syria spoke briefly outside his family's Cambridge home Wednesday of…

Local

FDNY debuts new fire simulator for blazes at…

The New York City Fire Department christened its newest, state-of-the-art, custom-built simulator at its training academy on Randall's Island Tuesday.

Local

Bronx cop saves baby who stopped breathing

A Bronx police officer is credited with saving the life of a 2-month-old baby who stopped breathing Tuesday morning. Police Officer Johnny Castillo, 38, was…

Entertainment

QUIZ: How many English words do you actually…

Are you as smart as you say you are? Are you a word nerd? Take this quick vocabulary test to find out if you're a true wordsmith. Good luck.

Television

'Pretty Little Liars' recap: Season 5, Episode 12,…

If you've wondered whether Ali and Bethany knew each other, you got an answer tonight: Yes, and in a very tangled way. But many lingering…

Entertainment

Cymbals Eat Guitars Have Everything to 'LOSE'

At its most basic level, a rock band can be thought of as a family, a group of people selflessly devoted to a cause. When…

Entertainment

"Bachelor in Paradise" recap: Episode 4, 'Week Four'

Some things are hard to watch in a “Human Centipede” sort of way. Other things in an “American History X” sort of way. Does “Bachelor…

College

When are 2014 college football playoffs? (Schedule, date,…

When and where are 2014 college football playoffs? A look at the schedule, date, TV, time for the semi-finals at championship game.

NFL

Dimitri Patterson suspended only for rest of preseason…

Dimitri Patterson ended up getting just a slap on the wrist.

Sports

Eugenie Bouchard excited for 'rowdy' fans at US…

Eugenie Bouchard is sure to endear herself to New York's tennis faithful as she tries to win her first grand slam title across the next two weeks.

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: Angels and A's still at…

MLB Power Rankings: Angels and A's still at top, Nationals climb

Wellbeing

Who is having the most orgasms?

  Single lesbians report having orgasms more often than heterosexual women but both gay and straight men still come out on top of the climax…

Home

Jonathan Adler shares his tips for a great…

Jonathan Adler took a break from boogie boarding at his beach house to tell us how to keep that Labor Day party festive.

Travel

Most popular Labor Day weekend destinations

Priceline.com released its Top 20 destinations for the end of summer, including Labor Day weekend. If you’re heading to any of these spots, expect a…

Wellbeing

Working your way to type 2 diabetes: Job…

When it comes to type 2 diabetes, a stressful job can be as risky for your health as a bad diet and no exercise. A…