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The Happiness Paradox: The Gap Between What We Want and What we know Brings True Happiness

This week, 'Therapy Begins with Tea' steeps on the happiness paradox of what would make us happy (versus what we already know does) and offers a body based check-in to help you re-connect with happiness in the everyday.

happiness paradox

Therapy Begins with Tea is a weekly newsletter based on the themes that come up in my sessions as a therapist who specializes in imposter syndrome, attachment styles in romantic relationships, and our psychological relationships with money. Each week consists of a 'steep' in thought reflection, an accompanying body based check-in, and tea card intentions for the week to come.

'Steep' in Thought (3-5 min)

What would make you happy?

We all just want to be happy. And as we turn away from one year and into a new one, we think a lot about what we want to happen in the future to make us just that -— happier. Owning property. A target income or net worth. The freedom to travel. A spouse. Parenthood. A job where you’re your own boss.

These future goals — be them dreams or societal expectations (or both) — guide the decisions we make in the present and looking towards the future reminds us of our ability to heal, grow, and evolve. But sometimes we get too stuck in the future, and it ends up hindering us because, well, we’re not there yet. So, instead, we get caught in this loop of simultaneous urgency and stagnancy. We lose sight of the present moment.

Why are We So Sure We Know?

But why are we so sure that we know what would make us happy? How do we know if it’s something we haven’t experienced yet? And why do we prioritize that over what we know does bring us happiness now? A meal with the people you love at your favorite restaurant. The fulfillment of reading a great book. Blocking out your calendar for a true day of rest. Going to live music or comedy. A day trip out of the city or a night hosting a board game tournament. The peace of a quiet, slow morning. The perfect cup of tea. The endorphin rush that comes with moving our bodies. The adrenaline & accomplishment of getting outside our comfort zone.

And even if these feel like ‘smaller’ joys comparatively, our nervous system doesn’t know the difference & our body treats them the same. So this time of year, when you hear ‘merry’ this and ‘happy’ that, feel curious about the happiness to come, but don’t forget to engage with what makes you happy now.  

Full Body Check-In (2-4 min)

Start with the breath. Notice the air fill your body as you breathe in through your nose, your lungs and belly and rib cage expanding. Breathe back out through pursed lips, letting the air go, feeling your body relax. Notice how that breath felt. And then keep going through the cycle of breath.

When you’re ready, call forward the word ‘happy’ and notice what happens. What other words, sensations, images come up? How and where does it take up space in your body?

Is happy a feeling you’re familiar with or one you feel more distant to? At this point of the day, have you done something to make you happy? If so, take a moment to acknowledge it, relish in it.

If not, what can you do after this check-in that makes you happy?

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