We live in a society where happiness seems to be the goal for everyone. One may occasionally think: How can I be happier? Let us start by considering what happiness means. While the details of the state most likely look different for each person, generally speaking, it entails a positive mood and a state of well-being tied around a deep satisfaction with life. Based on this pleasant sounding definition one may say: “Great, how can I be happy all the time?” Yet, here lies the catch to happiness! Let me further explain.
In Western society, there tends to be a high standard of living, and this includes the pressure we put on ourselves to have a happy mental state. Hence, there is a misconception that we need to be happy all the time in order to be a happy person. The truth is that along with happiness, there are many other moods, feelings, and emotions that human beings experience. In fact, there are six universal human emotions: happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise, and disgust. Yes, happiness in on this list, but so is sadness, which seems like the opposite! It appears that we are always striving to be happier, but what about making room to feel other emotions too? Even if they might feel uncomfortable or “negative”, it is normal to feel them at times. Actually, it is beneficial to feel them at times too because it is known that our emotions tell us important things. For example, feeling angry normally lets us know that something needs to change within our life. If you make room for the anger in your body, identify what needs to be changed, and change it, you will most likely be happier in the end. Imagine that!
To continue with the catch to happiness, emotions are much like the weather in the sense that they are always changing. Again, this is normal, good, and useful as one should always be mindful of various feelings and emotions. Yet, we are constantly chasing down happiness often times simply sweeping other emotions under the rug. This is known as suppression, which is normally a bad idea as the feelings tend to come back even stronger at some point in time. So, in a sense chasing down happiness may actually be a trap to feeling unhappy! The point is that happiness is hopefully a part of your life, but it is vital to make room for other feelings as well. I find that often times people may feel guilty for not feeling happiness as the society tells us we “should” be happy; yet, it is normal not be happy 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Really, if you consider all the other emotions and feelings, happiness is just one of many.
So, how can you be happier? The irony is there is a catch to happiness in the sense that the feeling may be a very unhappy pursuit. Rather than avoiding any sense of “unhappiness”, let it open the doors to happiness for you. And with this basis, realize that there are many emotions, and happiness does not necessarily have to be the predominate one in order to live a life with a state of well-being wrapped around satisfaction.
By Danielle Wahl, MA
Danielle Wahl, MA is a Licensed Professional Counselor Candidate in the state of Colorado.
She has experience working with eating disorders, depression, anxiety, trauma, and various other mental health diagnoses and has worked in full and partial hospital settings, residential treatment centers, and traditional settings. She has specific training in Cognitive Behavioral Thearpy ( CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), EMDR and neurofeedback.