I am not a big fan of happiness. It’s overrated. A client once said to me, “Happiness is like sex. It doesn’t last long”. That didn’t stop them searching for happiness. The more they searched, the unhappier they became.
Despite working as psychotherapist in Monaco, the one thing I never promise my clients is happiness. (If you think I’m a party pooper, don’t get me started on the perils of positive thinking). Numerous studies confirm the more we seek happiness, the lonelier we feel.
On 15th October, I will launch The Good Life at the Monte Carlo Bay hotel in Monaco. This daylong event is dedicated not to happiness but to wellbeing. Happiness is fleeting and circumstantial and often related to factors outside our control. Wellbeing is a state of being that we can influence.
Back to party-pooping. It turns out that we’re not doing a very good job at being happy. Approximately 20% of the global population suffers from mental and substance use disorders. The number of new cases of depression worldwide increased 50% between 1990 and 2017. Before Covid-19, governments across the world were recognising an epidemic of loneliness.
As author Anna Lemke poignantly states, “Why, in a time of unprecedented wealth, freedom, technological progress, and medical advancement, do we appear to be unhappier and in more pain than ever?”
It doesn’t have to be that way. We don’t need to spend the rest of our lives addicted to over consumption. We don’t need to work at jobs that don’t fulfil us or stay in relationships that don’t nourish us. And most of us have enough money even though we don’t realise it.
At The Good Life, my co-host Dufflyn Lammers and I will share what we believe makes us well and leads to a good life. We believe that when certain components in our life come together, we stand a better chance of living a full and meaningful life. The pandemic has forced us all to reflect on how we might achieve that.
The buzzword of our event is authenticity, defined by Canadian researcher Brené Brown as “the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.” I spent the first 25 years of my life trying to be someone I wasn’t. Like most of us, I didn’t feel good enough. Then it dawned on me (ok with a bit of therapy) that I was already worthy of love and belonging. I was already good enough without trying to be the person I believed the world wanted me to be. And so are you.
Carl Jung believed one of the greatest tragedies that can befall mankind is that of an unlived life. When we allow ourselves to step into our true selves and listen to our soul calling, we come alive. That doesn’t mean relentlessly pursuing happiness. It means meeting our pain and unhappiness with self-compassion.
There was a time when mental health was hushed up. I am grateful to Monaco Life for being one of the first local media to allow me a platform to discuss wellbeing. Thanks to our sponsors, Savills, Blevins Franks, Metabolic Balance and Clinic Les Alpes, we are able to bring this event to the Riviera.
So, what do I promise my clients? I promise to embark on a journey with them in which they will find greater meaning in their lives and start to discover their authentic selves. I start the journey with them, and they develop the tools to practice it long after our work is done. I am not a total party pooper. Along the way, they will probably experience an increase in happiness too.
Gavin Sharpe is a UK qualified psychotherapist, relationship / psychosexual therapist and executive coach. The thoughts and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and not necessarily those of Monaco Life. Gavin Sharpe can be reached at www.rivierawellbeing.com.