ME/CFS and Cultivating Happiness by Avoiding Comparisons

When you have this illness one thing to avoid if you want to be happy is comparing yourself with other people or other times in your life. It might be a natural impulse but it really doesn’t help! If we can look out for those moments when we are making comparisons we can choose to let go of those thoughts. Instead we can choose to refocus our attention on how we can work with what we have going for us now, within the context of our present circumstance.
As we are all unique it is never helpful to compare ourselves to others. Positive comparisons may lead to failing to treat another with the respect they deserve, whilst negative comparisons results in our own sense of wanting. Happiness results from an appreciation of our talents only in terms of how useful they are: how they add to the quality of our lives and the lives of others. You may feel that your talents have disappeared with your energy. But they are still there, they may need a new form of expression, or you may need to allow a previously undeveloped talent to develop, but have faith that you are important, complete and perfect just as you are. (See this post for more)
Comparing your present ability is also an invitation to misery. The only way comparison can ever be useful is when you are checking your energy levels against your baseline to decide whether you need to have a restful day, or a normal day, or a ‘do a tiny bit more’ day.
Even positive comparisons to measure progress can be a little dangerous because if we get too caught up on the idea of progress it’s a lot harder to deal with the dips. It’s much easier to be happy if we can focus on how we feel in the here and now purely in terms of letting it guide us how to make the most of what’s going on today, now.
When you choose not to compare your enjoyment of this moment with any other moment you free yourself to fully experience the enjoyment that is available to you. Last week I was lucky enough to visit a friend. She cooked me an absolutely delicious meal which both her partner and I thoroughly enjoyed. Unfortunately she was unable to enjoy the meal because she compared it to how her mother cooked it and found it wanting. Now her mother is a great cook, (she has an extra 20 years’ experience for a start) very hard to beat indeed. But by comparing her cooking to her mother’s my friend was condemning herself to disappointment when in fact her food is amazing too. It saddened me that she was so unable to enjoy that lovely food.
When we see a pretty flower, we can get more enjoyment out of it if we just focus on how it makes us feel in that moment. If we try to analyse how beautiful it is, or whether or not it is the most beautiful we’ve ever seen we won’t get so much out of it. Instead try ‘In this moment I am enjoying looking at a pretty flower and I feel grateful that such pretty things exist’. Instead of the frustration that you can only manage a short walk today, try ‘In this moment it feels great to be taking a stroll, breathing fresh air and feeling the sun/breeze on my skin’. Without comparisons these moments add up and you can find that happiness isn’t really that hard.
If this moment isn’t offering any enjoyment, for example if you are in pain, comparing it to other better moments only amplifies your discomfort. Instead choosing to do what you can to make yourself more comfortable or distract yourself with some small pleasure may be far more constructive. Not every moment can be a pleasurable one, and we are likely to experience some very challenging moments, however if we can learn the skill of avoiding comparisons happiness tends to pervade!

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