Face it—nobody likes conflict or struggle. People would be more than happy to live their lives feeling and believing that nothing could ever go wrong. They would love to ignore the bad and just imagine that everything in life is just how they want it. This attitude puts positive thinkers at a disadvantage sometimes, because you cannot adequately prepare when you are always assuming that good things will happen. It is good to keep a positive mindset, but it is harmful to be so positive that you leave yourself open to negative things. So, are positivity and happiness correlated?
Another problem with too much positivity is that it gives false ideas about happiness. This article will help you identify what you need to be happy, as well as why chasing happiness is not a good idea.
What is Happiness?
If you walked down a city sidewalk and asked each person that you met what happiness was, odds are that you would get a different answer from each person. They may say that happiness is having good times with family or a feeling that you get after you meet a goal. Some people might define it as enjoying their career, while others might say that it means having enough money to pay bills and enjoy themselves, without stress. The bottom line is that happiness can mean anything—it is all about your own perspective and the things that are going to make your life worth living.
The truth is that happiness is subjective. It is hard to give happiness a formal definition, as it is something that we feel. What is definite is that happiness is a positive emotion—it can describe everything from contentment and gratitude to pride and joy. When it comes to a true description, however, one of the best ways to describe it is a ‘subjective well-being’. Happiness is subjective because everyone experiences it differently. Each person has unique experiences, so each person has their own definition of happiness.
Another way to describe happiness is a general feeling of worthwhileness or meaningfulness in one’s life. It makes you feel that you have a reason to wake up each morning. This can include everything from your family to your job—but also your own personal sense of existence and the reason that you are life. It can be something as simple as feeling content with the place that you are at in life.
The thing about happiness is that the fleeting feelings that defines the actual emotion of happiness and finding a meaningfulness reinforce each other. When you feel that life is meaningful, it encourages frequent positive feelings. Likewise, when you truly enjoy life because of the positive emotions you are experiencing, you are reinforcing the message that your life is worth it.
What if I’m Not Happy?
It is hard to feel motivated and encourage yourself to move through life if you are not happy. For example, someone who hates their job is more likely to call off than someone who feels like their job is making a difference in the world. You may be more inclined to work on your relationship when you feel happy with someone than if you feel miserable when they are around.
When you are not happy, whether you experience more negative emotion than positive emotion in your life or you just do not feel fulfilled, the only thing that you can do is make a change. There is a saying that the definition of insanity is repeating the same steps, time and time again, even though there is no change. It is literally insane to continue to live your life in the same way, to go to the same job and interact with the same people, and expect to suddenly become happy.
Therefore, the only solution when you are not happy is to make changes. This could be changes in the things that you do each day or changes in your thinking. It may be a combination of these things that is necessary to make you happy. In the rest of the chapter, we will go over some of the things that you need to do to invite happiness into your life. This is something that should be done by people who struggle with the emotions, as well as those who feel they lack success in their life. It gives you a new perspective and it is the first step when you are ready to take action and make a change—rather than just sitting around and waiting for some invisible force to help you achieve the things you want.
Start by Redefining Well-Being
One of the biggest reasons that people find themselves in a miserable mindset is because they do not realize that life was created to let them experience a range of emotions. Yes, the positive feelings associated with happiness are more pleasant to feel than some of the others. However, negative feelings have a role in life, too. You are not going to be cheerful when someone you love dies or when you get passed over for a promotion at work. You may feel as if ‘it was meant to happen’ or explain it however you would like to, but refusing to acknowledge the emotions of sadness or disappointment actually harms you instead of helping you. Mental well-being does not mean being a happy, pleasant person all the time. It actually means that you experience a wide range of emotions in a healthy way.
Nobody is happy all the time—and science now proves that those who are, are not the people with the best mental health. Recent studies prove that having a well-rounded range of emotions is most healthy for the mind and overall well-being. Recently, the concept of ‘emodiversity’ has been studied. This concept simply talks about feeling a diversity of emotions—and now it has been studied by many. A paper was recently published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology General. In the paper, researchers from six prestigious institutions across four countries, including Harvard Business School and Yale University, studied the research on this idea and found that being happy all the time simply is not good for our mental health.
It turns out that too much of a good thing, even something as simple as happiness, is not good for anyone. When you are happy all the time, it loses its meaning. Happiness is relative, so experiencing it all the time can lead to feelings of mundaneness and boredom, even a feeling that life is meaningless. For example, one study conducted by Sonja Lyubormisky of UC Riverside studied the act of gratitude journaling. It is not uncommon for people who are trying to develop a more positive mindset to journal about the things they are grateful for through the day, to instil a sense of appreciation and happiness with their life. Over time, however, this positive experience turns mundane and routine. It loses its value, because it becomes more about habit and less about gratitude the more that the technique is used.
A study was also conducted on emodiversity, which started by surveying a group of people for their individual tendencies toward negative emotions like sadness, anger, and anxiety, as well as positive ones. From the diversity of the emotions and how often they were experienced, each participant was assigned a score. The study found that among 35,000 French people surveyed, experiences a wider range of emotions leads to a lower risk for depression. In fact, there was less occurrence of depression among those who experienced a wide range of emotions than those who reported feeling positive most of the time.
In a second study, the concept of emodiversity was linked to better overall health. This study used a sample group of 1,300 people from Belgium. Those who experienced a wider range of emotion shared lower costs of healthcare, fewer doctor and hospital visits, and less use of daily medications. Additionally, they generally had better habits regarding exercise, diet, and smoking.
So, what do you do if you tend to fall on the spectrum of people that don’t necessarily feel a wide range of emotions? There are a few things you can do.
First, start by analyzing your range of emotions. Do you feel just ‘good’ or ‘bad’, or do you experience a wider range? If you do not notice your emotions, chances are that you have gotten in the habit of repressing them. Repressing emotions simply means that you have fallen into the habit of ignoring them, either by pushing them down or by numbing them. This is common practice, especially for males who may have been taught that feel emotion is soft or weak and for females who may have been taught that showing too much emotion makes them overbearing or dramatic.
To stop repressing emotions, you need to become in tune with how you feel about situations. Rather than labelling something based on how you ‘should’ feel, let the emotion pass through you without judgement. Focus on how the emotion feels, rather than what emotion you might be experiencing. As you learn to do this in different situations, you will start to identify them simply through the way that the emotion feels. For example, people who do not deal with their anxiety or nervousness about certain situations may feel irritable or moody. It may come out as anger, rather than the anxious feeling that it is. By letting yourself feel the emotion, rather than labelling yourself as moody or irritable, you can get to the core of the emotion and truly feel it. While people do not necessarily want to fully experience negative emotions, the reality is that you cannot fully appreciate life or truly experience happiness without the negatives as well. Additionally, as you can see from the paragraphs above, feeling this wider range of emotions prepares you for the situations you are likely to experience in life, has a lower likelihood of depression, and can improve your health overall.
Is it Possible to try too hard to Be Happy?
Some people naturally have a competitive nature. They want to be the best at what they do—the best worker, the best performer, and the best at being happy. The problem with this overwhelming need to seek nothing but happiness is that it leaves little room for other emotions to be experienced. It does not give time for you to experience life in a way that is fulfilling and wholesome.
It is entirely possible for someone to try too hard to achieve ‘happiness’. People like to feel good—nobody wants to be angry or sad. It is important to remember in these times that the goal of life is not to feel nothing but happiness—it is to feel a general sense of well-being and have a purpose in life. When people fail to realize this, it can cause a vicious cycle of always chasing something that is not there. Chasing happiness is like chasing an unsatisfying goal. You might think that you wanted that new car, but now that you have it, what purpose does your life have? This causes us to reach for the next goal, forever striving for something else that will make us obtain some level of happiness. Unfortunately, as we fret over what source of happiness we will seek next, we actually set ourselves up for failure in achieving happiness. We cannot be happy if we are always seeking something more and always chasing the future, rather than taking the time to be happy in the present moment.
If you find yourself on the chase, then it is time to take a long, hard look about what your life is about. You will have to take stock of what makes you happy and when something does not make your life happy or fulfilled, then you need to take the action to change it. You should not seek happiness, but you should also be aware of the things in your life that are taking away from your happiness, thinking that it is something outside of you that gives you the things that you want in life.
Procrastinating can be a significant drain on your happiness. Find out how to overcome it here.
Image courtesy:Lidya Nada