What does it take for you to feel happy? Think about that question.
Feeling happy: A definition that may leave you unhappy
You may not feel so happy when I tell you what it ‘happy‘ really means. The root word for happy means luck, fortune or to come about by chance.
I don’t know about you, but hearing that happiness means the pursuit of luck, fortune or chance makes my happy chemicals reconfigure themselves into confused chemicals.
If you and I pursue happiness, which is based on luck, fortune or chance, none of these things are in our control. Is the pursuit of happiness, like a dog who pursues her tail: always running, never arriving?
Happiness is on my brain because it’s January, or as I call it, Saduary. It’s so easy to be pulled into unhappiness because of cold weather, long dark days, summer being six months away, money issues, personal problems (bla, bla, bla). It makes sense to put on your happy pants and happiness. Right? Not so fast.
Before we invest a lot of time and energy in the pursuit of happiness, let’s think about what it is that we are pursuing.
The Eight Myths of Happiness
1. You can choose to be happy.
Life can slam you unexpectedly, even if you have a goal of feeling happy. Happiness is an emotion and you cannot control it.
2. It depends on how much money you make.
It’s probably not money most of us feel about the same level of happiness, despite how much money we have. It’s just that the things that we worry about or that get us down will change.
More money, more money problems.
3. You are either happy or unhappy.
In fact, moods have a wide range from very unhappy to very happy. It’s a state that comes, leaves and will come back again. Alexander Yarde, a philosopher-entertainment writer says “I prefer to see happiness as a season like spring or summer. Sadness, Anger are like Fall or Winter approaching but all transitory & cyclical. So why try to hold on to happiness?
My trick is to see the beauty and value in all emotions like I try to do with the seasons. I don’t fear my emotions all are valid & valuable. “
4. Happiness will cure your mental health.
A big one, but briefly no. You can be depressed yet feel happy. It’s that at the core, your depression is an illness that impacts your thinking, your outlook and your temperament, and your energy. You cannot choose your way out of depression, but you can work on your recovery and work to improve your habits of thinking and healthy behaviors.
5. Happy people are more successful.
Slight unhappiness is actually the most productive state we can be in. It drives us to improve our state, improve ourselves and our thinking. Being too high on either extreme can become a distraction.
6. Most people are happy.
Actually most people are moderately happy. Think about how you feel most days, moderate happiness will probably describe your state.
7. You can pursue happiness.
Happiness is a state and I visited there once, but they rejected my visa.
Pursuing happiness is like pursuing summer. You know it will eventually get here but no matter how hard you work, it is still winter.
8. Happy is about laughter.
Comedians must be the happiest people, right?
Sorry to burst your happy bubble, but being a comedian is linked with mental illness and addiction. Comedy is a tool that will make you and I feel more happy in the moment, and that is always a good thing.
We can’t control our feelings, but we can choose our focus.
a. Avoid people who put pressure on you to be more happy. They will make you less happy because they are comparing, controlling and not very nice. Ditch ‘em.
b. New experiences and surprise – your last two weeks of experience is the seed bed of current happiness. Start planting.
c. Our outlook – this is not a new one and can be overused. Positive thinking won’t make us feel happy. Realistic thinking will. One definition of happy is “Unrealistic positivity.” Think about that one.
d. Learning – learning new things creates new brain connections and that can lead to greater satisfaction.
e. Ease up, relax, practice acceptance. Just makes sense, it’s tough to do in reality. I accept that acceptance is very difficult.
f. Remember what you are grateful for. Grateful people keep good memories closer at hand.
g. Contentment is a better goal than happiness. You and I can choose to be more content, because contentment is a state of mind that we can bring to our lives as opposed to being dependent on an emotion.
h. Volunteer because you and I spend too much time thinking about ourselves.
i. Create something because creativity is more about a process rather than producing something. Creativity is never finished, whereas a project has an end date and will be evaluated. Think of yourself more as a creative process rather than a project and you will feel more happy in about two weeks (see #a).
j. Share this post and sign up for my blog. This is a place to receive fresh content and a fresh perspective on mental health, leadership and relationships. Join the conversation.
I would like to hear from you in the comments. What keeps you happy? Do you believe there is such a thing as a happiness set point?
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Keep it Real
Photo by Britt Selvitelle