As most of you know, I have teenage children, before I know it, my son will cross over into that twenty-something, but for now I get to keep him as a teen. During the last few years my kids and I have had powerful conversations about how “depressed” so many young people are. I noticed this when I was a junior high language arts teacher, many young people took anti-depressants and complained about how sad life was. Staggering numbers compared to when I was growing up. I think back to my high school days and while we would talk about a situation which upset us, we did not really discuss being depressed or have a lengthy conversation about which antidepressant we were taking. I do remember when I got to college, there was more exposure to such discussions. In recent years, I hear it everywhere – it is not age specific, class specific, gender, race, locale, etc… It seems to be a “disease” with no boundaries.
It saddens me, especially with the young people, for they are just embarking on their life journey. They get to inherit all that we are leaving in our wake – I believe they need all the “good mood” they can muster to deal with the baggage that awaits them. So what is it? Why are people so unhappy? Why do I hear young people say they don’t really want to grow up? The zest and excitement for what the future holds seems to be lost, gone, a thing of the past. I couldn’t wait to grow up, to spread my wings into the world and be my own person. My peers and I used to fantasize about our future, wondering where we all would be years down the road. To me the world was this grand place open for exploration, full of limitless adventure, and opportunities.
I most certainly have my times of feeling lonely, lost, confused, uncertain, and questioning what the heck is life really all about…! Those moments are an opportunity to notice, learn, grow and choose. I welcome their truth as I do happiness, for they allow me to enjoy the spectrum of my emotions. They do not last long, for I quickly realize that I am looking outside of myself to find happiness, peace, fulfillment, and contentment. I know that none of that is “out there” it is “inside me”. It exists within me ALL the time, no matter what the circumstances of my life are, it is there, waiting and ready for me to feel and be.
I observe people who seek happiness outside themselves in many different ways. There are the shopaholics who get a high when they purchase something new, I observe that “the purchase high” lasts for a little while and then it is time for the next fix. Then there is the search for “someone” outside of ourselves to make us happy, to complete our life. Whew.., what intense pressure to put on a relationship or friendship – yikes!! What about the social addiction, the stay busy, then I won’t notice, or a few drinks or smokes to ease the discontent, you get the picture and actually I am sure you already know. It’s almost as though we run from happiness, peace, and love. While we are running at it, we create more distance from its presence. Think about the people you experience as genuinely happy. What do you notice? How do they live their lives? When I think about this, I see people from all walks of life who are happy, so it is obviously not exclusive.
This epidemic of unhappiness and discontent is not disappearing. Just take a peek at some of the suicide statistics – https://afsp.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/2016-National-Facts-Figures.pdf. It is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, that is sobering. Personally I continue to believe and experience that happiness is not something cured by people or things outside ourselves. It is an internal way of being. Like the muscles we build up gradually over time, it may take focused work to first find that happiness source within your heart/soul, its there, you were born a happy content child – then what happened??? Watch a young child, they do not stay unhappy for long, they do not harbor vendettas, they fall down, get their feelings hurt, and bounce back, making the best of what is. So, do we learn unhappiness? Is it something taught, role modeled, encouraged? It is a money making industry, pharmaceuticals, counseling, buying frenzies, alcohol, etc… Why do we not have classes in our junior high and high schools that discuss life at this depth? Isn’t happiness more important than remembering the exact dates of the Revolution? I don’t know, maybe it is just me – but it sure concerns me that so many young people feel hopeless and unhappy. It saddens me to hear all the discontent and complaining that surrounds me when I go out into the busy world. It reminds me of that old song, “Looking for love in all the wrong places” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FAyDmJvjxbg), I believe we are looking for happiness in all the wrong places – we never lost it, we just forgot how to embrace and nurture it.
I cannot conclude without honoring that there are sincere cases of depression. The true chemical imbalance that is a disease requiring attention and treatment. In these situations it is a true battle, one that deserves respect, help, understanding and support. We all love those movies where someone rises out of a very challenging situation, do the circumstances change first? Or does the person change inside first? Is happiness “out there”? Or is it in our heart, soul and mind? It goes with yesterday’s blog, what would happen to your happiness barometer if you woke everyday focusing on your gratitudes? Just curious…