I speak with my students about vital signs and vital living when we talk about happiness. When we go to the doctor, they take our vital signs – heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, and respiration – to see if we are living beings. This is what checks our vitality on the surface. Our vital signs say nothing about how full, rich, or meaningful we feel about how life and how our life can or how we believe it “should” be.
We talk about how there is “feeling happy” and there is “living happily” and many of us often struggle with living happily if we aren’t feeling happy. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy has been one of the best ways I’ve seen my clients – and myself! – shift from feeling to living. One of the most powerful quotes that I came across about the idea of being happy is that it is a feeling like any other feeling – joy, anger, disgust, fear, sadness, etc. It doesn’t last forever. And you can almost feel the collective gasp of humanity if someone has the audacity to believe that you can’t be happy forever! We all know that *one* person who seems to always be happy no matter what, but is it that they are happy regardless of the circumstance or are they living their life happily because they include the ups and the downs and the lefts and the rights?
My favorite quote from the book, “The Happiness Trap” says “If we live a full life, we will feel the full range of human emotions” (Harris, 2008, p. 5). This means that when we want to live a full, rich, meaningful life, we experience vitality. “This is not some fleeting feeling – it is a profound sense of a life well lived. And although such a life will undoubtedly give us many pleasurable feelings, it will also give us uncomfortable ones… this is only to be expected” (Harris, 2008, p. 15).
I remember when I read that quote years ago and recognized the importance of accepting all of the experiences life would give. I came away with three realizations that I work to share with my clients.
- Feeling is part of living. We become emotionally healtheir when we live life by accepting that feelings – of all intensities and polarities – happen. Their purpose is to remind us to live a vital life! As we work to accept ourselves, we will work to accept our feelings.
- Commit to your values. This is about finding a direction in life and living what works for making you a person full of vitality. This means commit to taking a valuable direction in your life. A value is not a goal, it is a way of being in your life and in your relationships.
- Take Action: Accept yourself as a living and feeling being. Identify and commit to your direction in life. Take action to live the life you value! Imagine my joy when the folks at ACT created a Happiness Trap app? Now I had one more tool in my box to help me take action to living a full, rich, meaningful – aka “Happy” – life.
We’re getting close to the New Year, why wait to make changes? Start now by thinking about what you feel and how you want to live in service of a rich, full, and meaningful life.