Is Happiness a Myth?

By Megan Fletcher, Licensed Professional Counselor

Every day you either see or hear someone talking about being happy. It surrounds you daily, yet you feel like something is missing. It’s like you are in the middle of a crowd of laughter and camaraderie, yet you stand there alone wondering what you are doing wrong. Don’t worry! You’re not alone in these feelings.  We happen to live in a world where happiness in the perceived norm. But is it?

Everyone says, “I just want to be happy.”  Seems like a pretty simple statement, right? Unfortunately, it’s just a statement and a vital question is being missed. We often forget to ask ourselves “What does it mean to me to be happy?” This is where comparisons need to be thrown out. What makes you happy may not make others happy. It is different for everybody. It may even differ for you over the course of your life. And there’s nothing wrong with that!

With that in mind, it’s time to start looking at happiness from a different perspective. How are we all looking at happiness in the wrong way? Well society has created some myths of happiness. It’s time that we delve into those.

Three Myths of Happiness

Myth#1: Happiness is supposed to be our natural state of emotion.  I would like you to take a moment right now and think really hard about the question I’m about to ask. In your entire life, have you ever met anybody that you felt was happy a full 100% of the time? Probably not, right? The reality of this is that are emotions are constantly changing. If this is something difficult to comprehend, I would like to liken our emotions to the weather. We don’t expect the natural constant to be a beautiful warm sunny day. Those days are certainly nice, but they aren’t always there. We know that in the winter it will be cold and will likely come with things like snow and ice to throw a wrench in our day to day lives. On the other end of the spectrum, we know that in the summer it will be hot and sunny. So, we have two extremes at each end of the spectrum and between the two is plenty of windy days, rainy days, cloudy days and stormy days. Now keeping this in mind, the weather looks just like our emotions. We will have days that we are feeling bright and happy, others where we feel down and sad and plenty of others that are a mix of everything in-between!

Myth #2: Happiness is feeling good. Again, we must ask ourselves what does this mean? First let’s look at what the dictionary definition of happiness is – feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.

Well the challenge with this is how long does a state of pleasure or contentment even last? Time for you to put your thinking cap back on. I would like you to try and think of the happiest day of your life. Maybe it was the day your child was born, the day you graduated, the day you got married. Simply it can be anything, just think about that day. Now that you have it in your mind, how long was it until you had something come up that caused some sort of frustration or anxiety? Usually it’s not very long. Something is bound to come up, even on the happiest of days. So instead of getting bogged down with this obsession of happiness meaning that we feel good, we need to look at what we feel gives us a rich and meaningful life. To even have the ability do this, we need to experience the full range of human emotion. That’s how we know when we’ve had those good days, because we can tell the difference from the bad days we’ve experienced. So, let’s take this to an example. If you are a parent, you may think that one of the happiest and exciting moments in your life was when they were born. How long did it take for stress to set in? I mean you are a new parent. That’s incredibly stressful! However, just because you experienced that stress doesn’t mean that you love your child less or your relationship with them isn’t good enough. All it means is that you had a happy moment followed by many other moments over the course of time.

Myth #3: If you aren’t happy then something is wrong with you. Have you ever felt like there was something wrong with you or that you were defective simply because you weren’t happy? Well guess what, if you’re not happy all the time you are NORMAL! Yes, I said it. You are normal. Of course you aren’t happy all the time! Let’s break this down. If you truly felt happy all the time, you would never feel stressed or overwhelmed. Now then, can you think of anyone that would like their lives to become more stressful? Probably not. Therefore, whenever you feel like you aren’t enough because you aren’t happy all the time, just remember you are being a normal human being.

We just challenged the three myths of happiness. Now it is possible to take a moment and see that emotions are just like anything else in our lives. Things that are always changing. Sometimes for the worse, but also for the better. Don’t let that bog you down though. Take a moment to look at what truly matters in your experiences rather than beating yourself up if you don’t fall into this perfect picture of happiness society has set out for us. There’s much more to life than one emotion.

I hope my words have been helpful for you in terms of sorting out realistic vs. unrealistic expectations for how happiness is or isn’t supposed to manifest in your life; but, if you have been battling with difficult emotions such as sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness, and fear, then you may need more help than a single article or self-help book can provide.  Please take it upon yourself to contact me or another mental health professional to help you navigate through these difficult emotions and challenging times. I wish you the best in your journey in life.

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