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So what makes people happy? Advertisers would want us to think that having the right “stuff” is what would make us happy. It’s what fills the airways. And it goes without saying that, we all know that money can’t buy us happiness, but it can make us more comfortable. In fact, we all know stories of people that are incredibly rich people, money wise, but are incredibly miserable emotionally and spiritually. So what really makes us happy as human beings?
Over the years there have been numerous studies into what actually makes people happy. Most of those studies indicate that true happiness comes from within. The external stuff can make us more comfortable (more money and things), but that is not what really makes us happy.
In my work as a psychotherapist over the last 20 years, I have seen and worked with a lot of people that were suffering and unhappy. Those struggling with various mental illnesses and broken relationships. At the core of most of the problems that people have in life comes down to being disconnected. Being disconnected from themselves and others. It’s an issue of loneliness and fear. The bottom line to what makes us happy in life is when we feel safe and secure along with feeling connected to others at a deeper level.
Kindness Brings Compassion
How do we “fix” this problem of disconnection? Needless to say it can be complicated. Nonetheless, when people begin practicing kindness and compassion in their lives, things seem to get better. Kindness to themselves and the toxic messages that play in their heads. Also practicing kindness to others and being able to forgive past hurts. Through both of these, kindness to self and kindness to others, people can begin to experience compassion.
One way of thinking about kindness and compassion is in this way:
Kindness is an action. It is also a choice in how we treat others. It means treating others with dignity and respect along with acknowledging their struggles. And we can show kindness to others without necessarily having compassion for them.
Compassion is a feeling or an emotion. It is somewhat connected to empathy and forgiveness. It is being emotionally moved by other people’s suffering or hardships. And sometimes when we practice or show kindness, compassion follows.
The Pursuit of Meaning
Viktor Frankl (1905-1997), the famed neuroscientist, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, devoted his life to understanding the importance of “meaning”. His book, “Man’s Search for Meaning” is a classic in self-help psychology. In it he tells the story of how he survived the Holocaust by finding personal meaning in that experience despite all the extreme suffering and evil he encountered.
Frankl’s research showed a strong relationship between “meaninglessness” and criminal behaviors, depression, anxiety and addictions. And when people do not have meaning in their lives, they will substitute the pursuit of hedonistic pleasure, materialism, power, hatred, and compulsive behaviors.
Frankl recommends that we find meaning in our lives through three different actions: through deeds of kindness or service to others, through the experience of values through some kind of medium (beauty through art, love through a relationship, etc.) or in the meaning that can come out of suffering. Frankl believed that joy came as a byproduct of finding meaning in life.
The Kindness & Compassion podcast is here to help people find ways to practice kindness and compassion in their everyday lives. And also a way to explore the intersections of science, psychology and spirituality that can bring a deeper meaning in life.
Kindness and Compassion Is A Practice
Kindness and compassion is something we have to develop and practice. And through its practice we can find more meaningful and happy lives. It is my hope that in this podcast and the content of this website you can find your path to a more meaningful and fulfilling life. It is the ultimate pursuit of happiness.
L. Gordon Brewer, Jr., LMFT – is a Licensed Therapist, consultant, podcaster and author. He is in private practice and owner of Kingsport Counseling Associates, located in Kingsport, TN. Gordon has worked in the human services fields for over 30 years. He is a clergy person in the Episcopal Church. Gordon has devoted himself to helping others find meaning and healing in their lives.