The happiness conundrum
So, the whole point of life is to be happy, right? Hand’s up if you are not satisfied, or at some point have not been happy and got really angry about it. Well, you are not alone, and there are some widespread misconceptions about happiness that actually make it virtually impossible for most of us to actually ever be happy. To find your groove, you need to understand how happiness works and what you can do about it.
Stop being a victim
Sounds a little harsh I know, but that fact is that happiness is not doled out. Equally, unhappiness is not something that the universe forces upon you. Next time you are tempted to blame the world and moan at how unfair it all is, don’t. Happiness is not something that happens by some remarkable accident. It is actually within your control, and you really can bring joy into your world.
Understand bad days
Even those people who claim to have the happiest lives possible have down days, so the first lesson is just this - you cannot be happy all the time. Sad and bad things do happen that are beyond our control, and while we can control how we react to them, sometimes we will not be happy. A sick relative, a problem at work... there are enumerate reasons why we cannot project a joker style grin all the time, so stop trying. However, this does not mean we have to spiral into the blame game and figure that we may as well stop putting any effort in because life clearly hates us. Sadly, life happens. New arrivals in the family may make you smile, but unfortunately, the end of life can be traumatic; life has a balance.
Money doesn’t make the world go round
A lot of time is lost in life by another misconception that goes like this - 'if only I can earn more money, life will be happy'. Again, not true. To a point, money can make life more comfortable, and by default happier, but there is definitely more at work. I have met plenty of people in my counselling work who just cannot understand why having the money to pay all their bills and enough left over to play with hasn’t made them happy. Money helps, but it is not everything.
Other people feel that if they could just get away from it all for a while life will improve. In some roles that are considered highly stressful, sabbaticals are a thing. For other people saving up to take a month long holiday is the goal. Yet again these people are surprised when this time away from worrying about work doesn’t suddenly flip the happiness switch. Yes, I think I would feel happier for a while lazing on a beach with the sun warming my body, but again, there is more to happiness than escaping.
Freedom is a double-edged sword
Another common misconception is to do with freedom. People feel that the reason they are not happy is that they are trapped. By work, partners or *insert other reason here*. They become convinced that if they could just get away from this entrapment and find freedom, then happiness would magically appear, much like the genie in the lamp. We call this 'grass is greener syndrome'. For some people, especially those that understand the happiness effect, a strategic move to break free from something could indeed see an increase in happiness, but for others, the core reason they are not happy is within. The happiness block simply comes with them.
So what can I do?
If all this sounds rather depressing - hold-up! Happiness is yours for the taking, so having considered those issues, consider this - it starts inside. Smile, at everyone, strangers, colleagues, family, the lot. Acknowledge what you do have and be grateful for the good. Be thankful for what didn’t happen today, as well as being eternally grateful you are here today. Tell people how much they mean to you, and include yourself. You are actually pretty awesome if a little life-battered. Change your outlook, and you might be amazed at what follows.
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About Joanna Bieszczad
Joanna Bieszczad has been working in mental health for over ten years in a variety of roles– as a counsellor, a senior CBT therapist, and an EMDR therapist. During this time she was struck by a commonality among her single clients and developed techniques that were able to address the most common problems on their path to finding love.