May 24, 2022

4 Reasons Why You Should Stop Trying to Be Happy

4 Reasons Why You Should Stop Trying to Be Happy

Happiness. That's what we all want.

Be positive, to be happier! Seems like a worthy pursuit. What could go wrong?
Turns out a lot.

Hey, let me be clear. I'm not anti-happy! I enjoy happiness just as much as the next person.

The problem is not happiness.

  • The problem is the belief that happiness is a destination you can reach.
  • The problem is the expectation that you can stay happy.
  • The problem is thinking that if you're not happy, something is wrong with you.

Ironically, it is this kind of desperate and unrealistic pursuit of happiness that is leading to all the unhappiness.

Let me explain.

We are setting ourselves up to fail.

You see, happiness is a feeling, one of many. Happiness, like all feelings, comes and goes depending on what is happening in our lives right now.

For instance, you could be lying on a beach relaxing in the sunshine and noticing how happy you feel. Suddenly, a loud family sits down next to you, or you can smell cigarette smoke, or the weather suddenly changes—how do you feel now?

Maybe annoyed, frustrated, disappointed?

And then something else happens, and you feel differently again.

Happiness is fleeting, and if we have the expectation or the goal to 'be happy' and 'stay happy', we will be constantly disappointed and, even worse, feel like failures.

All of our emotions deserve our attention.

Life is about experiences. The human experience includes feeling the full range of emotions—some of them pleasant, and some unpleasant.

Emotions like sadness, anger and guilt are often thought of as bad, but they, like all emotions, have value.

Our feelings communicate to us, communicate to others, and motivate us to act.

The intensity of our emotions and our responses to them can be dysfunctional or unhelpful, not the emotions themselves.

We miss important information if we constantly try to shove them down, push them away, or judge them as wrong or unacceptable. A far more helpful and healthy response is to:

  • Accept all of our feelings as they come.
  • Identify the function of our emotions.
  • Learn to respond effectively.
You can still be content even if you're not happy.

Maybe, it's a question of semantics. When we say we want to be happy, perhaps what we really mean is that we would like to be content and satisfied with our lives overall.

A state of contentment or satisfaction is a far more realistic pursuit. See, although happiness is a pleasant state to be in, it's not a goal you can reach or a final destination.

You can't stay happy. And if you try to force it, it's not really that satisfying, is it? That's because it doesn't feel genuine. But we can be content even if we're not happy right now.

Confused? It's like when you still love someone even when you're angry with them. Love is more stable than contentment because we see and respond to the whole picture, not just the moment.

The things that give us meaning and purpose do not always make us happy.

What gives us the most satisfaction in our lives? If you look at the research, our sense of belonging and having meaningful bonds with others are at the top of the list. If that's true, then how does that fit with the pursuit of happiness?

Consider your significant relationships—your partner, mother, father, children, close friends and/or colleagues may come to mind. Choose one to focus on and ask yourself this—in your relationship with this person, have you only experienced happiness? Not likely.

Any meaningful pursuit, whether an important relationship, your education, your career or any personal challenge or interest, comes with a mixed bag of emotions.

If you have children, you know that one of the most common responses to your child's birth is joy, followed closely by anxiety, fear, guilt, frustration, disappointment…you name it! And it never ends!

Why do most of us choose to have children? Is it because they always make us happy?

Definitely not. It's because they add meaning to our lives, because we value our bonds with our children, and because these bonds add to our sense of contentment and satisfaction with our lives as a whole.

So spread joy, be grateful, focus some of your attention on what makes you happy, and practice being mindful of your happy moments.

Just remember that you are not supposed to feel happy all of the time and that your mental health and well-being depend upon your ability to accept all your emotions, not just the pleasant ones.
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This makes so much more sense than just trying to stop worrying.
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