In the April edition of Mindful, you will find a great essay from Elisha Goldstein. It’s really worth the read..and her book by the same title Uncovering Happiness, is really wonderful also. But, if you are in a hurry, this is the the sentence that sums it up:
“I know that uncovering happiness is not about simply being drunk on life but is found in a profound and enduring experience of learning how to lean into loving ourselves and others in good times and in bad.”
Uncovering Happiness | By Elisha Goldstein
Bouts of depression range from the mild and infrequent to the severe and chronic. For serious depression, you should seek qualified help. But for any level of depression, it helps to know that underlying the darkness is happiness—and our brain is equipped with the means to uncover it.
When I was living in San Francisco during my twenties, I built a successful career in sales. At night, I lived fast and partied recklessly, abusing drugs and alcohol with a like-minded group of drifting souls. Eventually my despair and shame grew so deep that I isolated myself from my family and friends and lost myself in my addictive behaviors.
Occasionally, in some of the seedier bars I frequented, I would come across a mess of a man who was so strung out that he repulsed me. I remember saying to my friends, “God help me if I ever turn out like him.” I thought, since I was managing to succeed at work, I was in control of my self-abusive behavior. But one night, after many hours of partying, I saw the truth of who I had become. When I found myself slumped beside that man and his equally dazed companion in the back of a broken-down limousine, I saw my own reflection in his wasted face and realized I was throwing away my life. I jumped out of the limousine, determined to transform myself.
As for so many others, it was mindfulness practice that turned things around for me. My family urged me to spend a month away at a retreat center. During that time, I questioned everything I did and all that I believed. Answers began to come to me: I wanted to stop abusing my body. I wanted to find the purpose and meaning of my life. I wanted to be happy.
I wanted to heal myself, and eventually, I realized, I wanted to help heal others who faced some of the same challenges that had nearly broken me. I trained as a clinical psychologist and began running Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) programs focusing on helping people relate to stress better and not relapse into depression. Now having worked with my own depressive tendencies and with hundreds of clients, I know that uncovering happiness is not about simply being drunk on life but is found in a profound and enduring experience of learning how to lean into loving ourselves and others in good times and in bad. It’s a happiness based on a sense of common humanity, connectedness, and purpose. While I still get hooked by self-judgments and negative thoughts, I have learned to be grateful for the good moments and a bit more graceful during the difficult ones, knowing that all things in life come and go. I’ve come to believe that I’m benefitting from natural antidepressants that are present in the human brain.