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Why you can have everything you want but still not be happy


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Fulfilled book
Photo: Hackette Book Group

On paper, you likely have a lot to be grateful for—so much that it can be guilt-inducing when any feelings of unhappiness creep up. You have a body that can carry you through a grueling HIIT workout class, a job that gets the bills paid on times, and awesome people who love you—what right do you have to feel unfulfilled?

But that’s the thing about sadness—or more seriously, depression: It doesn’t discriminate. You can have the seemingly perfect life, yet still feel desperately empty. Why is that? According to psychiatrist Dr. Anna Yusim, MD, author of the new book Fulfilled, it’s because you’re disconnected from your soul.

It may sound woo-woo, but studies backs her up. “There’s a ton of science that says living more authentic lives and having some sort of spiritual connection actually improves mental, emotional, and physical healing,” Dr. Yusim says. But the concept of the soul is never talked about in Western medicine—a fact that prompted her to write Fulfilled in the first place. “The placebo effect is the perfect example of how powerful belief can be,” she says. “People often write it off saying, ‘Oh yeah, that’s just the placebo effect.’ But it’s something that actually causes healing. It shows how powerfully connected the mind and body are.”

Dr. Yusim says connecting to your soul is key to feeling happy and fulfilled. Here, she gives three ways to snap yourself out of autopilot.

Scroll down for three ways to better connect to your soul.

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1. Ask yourself what would make you deeply happy

Since WebMD doesn’t exactly keep a running list of the symptoms associated with a neglected soul, Dr. Yusim is here to oblige. “It can come up in many different manifestations including anxiety, depression, obsession, angst, feelings of emptiness, or the myriad addictions that plague our society,” she says.

Dr. Yusim says she’s had a lot of patients come to her office completely unhappy with their life and wondering how they even got there in the first place. Often, they crafted their life based on outside pressures—from family, work, or society—and didn’t take the time to ask one of what Dr. Yusim considers life’s most important questions: What would make me deeply happy?

“It’s such a simple question but it’s one we rarely ask ourselves,” she says, encouraging people to actually write it out so it’s right there in front of you in black and white. But what if going after the thing that would make you deeply happy would also disrupt your whole life? Dr. Yusim has some advice on that, too.

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Photo: Stocksy/Jojo Jovanovic

2. Take baby steps toward making what you’re missing a reality

“There are some people who, once they see what they’re missing, they make a big life change and pursue it. But that’s not a reality for everyone,” Dr. Yusim says. “What if you have a high-paying job in finance that you use to support your kids but you realize you really just want to be a writer?” First, she says even being aware of that is a huge plus. “How great to realize what you really want out of life at 25, 35, or 45?” she says. “I can’t tell you how many people I see at 55 and 65 who are just realizing it.”

Next, she says start pursuing what’s missing in small ways. Take that finance guru who really wants to be a writer: Carving out just 30 minutes a week to pursue that passion or enrolling in a writing class is a big step toward feeling more fulfilled, according to Dr. Yusim. “Start creating that space for you to enter into a new way of being you haven’t been able to before,” she says. “Baby steps count. They’re powerful.”

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look for signs
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3. Look for signs

Another way to connect more with your soul and, in turn, what will make you deeply happy: Look for synchronicity, AKA meaningful coincidences. “Coincidences happen all the time, but what makes them meaningful starts with being aware and entertaining the idea that it could be more than randomness,” Dr. Yusim says.

“Even if your nature is to be more of a doubter, starting to entertain this idea that there is a grander plan for your life and that you come from something bigger can be fulfilling,” Dr. Yusim says. At the very least, it’s certainly a more fun way to live.

According to Dr. Yusim, “The desire starts to come from you and the universe wants you to fulfill it. That’s beautiful. Enhance your desire.”

Speaking of happiness, here’s the key to finding a workout that brings you joy and how to improve your mood with food.