The Happiness Myth
Let’s start with this: Happiness, like any emotion is never constant but will likely come and go as will boredom and dissatisfaction. Happiness is a state of being content, in good cheer and generally experiencing feelings of optimism. It is a state of mind which ebbs and flows and has highs and lows.
Most people can feel happy for at least a short period of time. Unless a person is clinically depressed, having feelings of sadness, upset, discontent or anxiety are all part of the human condition. We humans are capable of experiencing the whole spectrum of emotions and can do so depending upon the circumstances in our lives at the time.
Despite this fact we are driven to believe that we have a “right” to be happy; as if someone or something is in charge of all the happiness in the world and is keeping it from us. We seem to believe that finding happiness requires great effort but are not sure how or where to acquire it. It is as though happiness can somehow be collected, like a trophy.
So what is this incessant search for happiness about?
It would appear that some of us believe that finding happiness is akin to having some great epiphany or religious experience…a great white light enters your body and suddenly you are at last happy! So we search frenetically to find it hoping for some type of powerful, amazing and magical experience.
We look for the experience of a lifetime hoping that it will bring us happiness. We buy faster cars, eat at fancier restaurants, search for the “perfect” love partner, purchase more expensive clothes take more extravagant vacations all in the hope that having or doing more will bring more happiness.
Our society has shown every sign of having placed greater value on not being satisfied with what we have and therefore always wanting more. The emphasis we place on getting more creates an atmosphere of low level dissatisfaction in having less. Therefore despite what we do we are always in a somewhat quiet state of unhappiness or disharmony.
Unless we can find a sort of peace in “just being” (some achieve in the practice of meditation) we are always going to feel that we are at the lower end of the happiness continuum, feeling restless and discontent.
Why not just accept it?
The idea that all humans experience ups and downs seems elementary but some in the self-help, self growth happiness industry would have you believe otherwise (at least that is the impression one gets).
They want you to believe that you “should’ be happy. That it is your right, you deserve it and if you try hard enough you will have it. The problem is that the more you “try” to be happy the more likely it is that you will feel miserable when you don’t get that wow experience.
We live in a world where, unlike our ancestors, most of our basic needs are met. We no longer need to focus on hunting for food and fending off predators (maybe creditors, but not predators).
We would probably be better off if we were able to just sit back and say, “We have most of what we need and we feel pretty happy about it” but instead we are driven by the need for more.
Anyone who has had the simple pleasure of looking at the ocean, spending time with loved ones, reading a good book or enjoying a beautiful day knows what it feels like to be happy.
There is no mystery to knowing happiness, it is available any time you want it. The myth is to think that it can only be achieved through making an expensive purchase, winning the lottery or taking some great trek through the universe.