In my line of work, something I hear from almost every client, is some variation of “I just want to be happy”.
It makes total sense - you’ve probably thought the same at some point in your life.
It’s something I often hear from parents too – they just want their children to be happy. This is quite a big expectation to have of them.
What if the way we are looking at what it means to achieve and embody happiness is setting us up for failure?
Our never-ending search for happiness is often based on an abstract concept of how we must feel positive emotions at all times – that happiness is the default emotion – and anything less is a potential sign of mental illness or that we are defective in some way.
Interestingly, the idea of happiness at all costs is a western concept – the ways in which we think about and try to obtain happiness are quite different to those in developing countries.
We have higher standards of living, better health and education and more wealth, yet we have the highest rates of anxiety and depression.
There is advice everywhere about how to create happiness, and it can be hard to know which advice is right – this article could be just another idea that leads you nowhere – but since societal misery only seems to be growing, maybe a different view could be helpful?
It is an unhelpful and inaccurate belief that happiness is the only acceptable emotion, when as human beings, we possess a full range of emotions that also encompass uncomfortable emotions like sadness, anger, and fear.
Being on a constant wild goose chase for “positive” emotions and an endless fight to rid ourselves “negative” ones, is a struggle against the nature of humans.
What if, what you think about happiness as feeling constant joy, pleasure and gratification was something of an unreachable target?
Far more obtainable and realistic is to begin to build a rich, full and meaningful life that is full of the people, activities and actions that you desire deep in your heart.
Know that you have very little control over what you think and feel on any given day, but you do have a lot of control over the things that you do.
Physically getting up to make contact with someone who means something to you, or putting one foot in front of the other on a walk, or researching your next career or education goal. These are what will start to build that life. By moving in the direction of what is meaningful to you, doing the things that open you up to vitality and meaning, you will begin to experience a sense of living your life well, rather than seeking an unobtainable or fleeting feeling of pleasure.
By Kathryn Wright