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Coping with stress in the feeble pursuit of happiness

Author: Dr Peter Lind
Published: Jul 26 2012

You will never live a perfectly happy life. There are always unfulfilled dreams, wishes, and promises. There are many times of frustrations. There are tensions. We suffer from the torment of living an insufficient life; there is no completion in this life. This isn’t to bring you down – au contraire! Read onward my friend.

Yes, we all want to be happy. We do ridiculous things we believe will make us happy. We spend sums of money, we go into debt, we take pills, we tell lies, we avoid people, we break the law…we do undefinable acts, believe illogical ideas, follow irrational people just so we can have a few moments of happiness. Then we repeat the unrepeatable!

But you are pursuing the weak emotion of happiness because you have never-ending streams of stress, called life, interfering with your pursuit.

So how can you be happy?

This is the second question to ask. Your first question to ask yourself is: “Is my life meaningful?” Yes, is there meaning in your life? Is there meaning in your job or occupation? Is there meaning in your marriage? Is there meaning in your relationships with your family and friends? Do you find meaning in an ordinary day on planet earth?

True, you may find happiness sprinkled throughout your days but you will mostly focus on your stresses if you don’t pursue your meaning and what’s really meaningful to you.

When you define what is meaningful the attraction to pursue happiness becomes less significant. I will go so far to say that when you pursue meaning, happiness may be unimportant.

If your life stresses are overwhelming they will become the major reasons you are trying to pursue happiness just so you can avoid them.

We often fantasize what it would take for us to be happy. We want to live in a bubble so we would be free from pressures, tiredness, physical pain, relationship problems, financial worry, bad jobs, and bad people.

Pursuing happiness suggests that one day you will have everything perfect and that you will be content; perfect health, the perfect spouse, completely fulfilled relationships, the perfect job, no anxiety, no disappointments, and all the money and time to enjoy the good life. But this will never happen. Happiness won’t stay very long when any of these things happen.

You may not be able to cope with much of your stresses now because you are approaching this entire idea from a self-destructive angle. In fact, you may be focusing on the most destructive recipe of avoiding stress and attempting to pursue happiness. This is insanity!

Do this. Separate the two: stress and meaning. Forget about happiness, it will come as a result of defining stress and meaning. I mean it; stop trying to pursue happiness.

First, stress. Where is it in your life? This should be easy. Stress comes from several major sources: physical, nutritional, and emotional. There are minor stresses like gravity, thermal, electromagnetic, but let’s talk about these some other time.

Determine from these three where the majority of stress is coming from. Really define the specifics about it as if you were telling a friend that is a little hard of hearing and not too bright. Explain it so well that anyone can understand your stress and what you’re going through.

Next, meaning. What is your meaning in this area of stress in your life? Is it what it should or could be? I bet your meaning is a little deflated in this area. I could be wrong about you but I bet I’m pretty close to target.

Here’s what I mean. Take a stress like a relationship going bad with your parent. Is this reasonable enough? Let’s say your mom stresses you out. You would just like to be happy, of course but she makes you feel unhappy (worthless, childlike, abandoned…). In attempt to be happy, you pursue things that take you away from her and toward other pleasantries (it doesn’t matter what they are, well, it does matter but not for my illustration).

Instead I want you to focus your attention to the meaning of your relationship you have with your mother (or whatever example of stress you are using). How clearly defined is your meaning here? Is the meaning of your relationship with her to make yourself happy or is it something else, something deeper, richer, or interdependent?

If your meaning is weak your happiness will be weak. If your meaning is strong, your happiness won’t matter. You are not pursuing happiness in this case (or for any other stress in your life) you are pursuing meaning which will far outlast happiness.

Get clear on your meaning in each area of stress in your life. You can better cope with stress by first defining it and then attaching a stronger meaning to it, a meaning that makes you happy.

Meaning is true happiness. A life that is pursued for meaning will sustain happiness. What is meaningful in your life? What area of your life are you striving to find meaning in?

Find meaning in life. Your stresses will begin to dissolve and your happiness will fill the void.

If you found this article valuable, here is a Free 7 Day Stress Management Course where you will find lots more help with stress.

Dr Peter Lind practices metabolic and neurologic chiropractic in his wellness clinic in Salem, Oregon. USA. He is the author of 3 books on health, one novel, and hundreds of wellness articles. His clinical specialty is in physical, nutritional, and emotional stress. His website is

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