I log into my Twitter account...positive quotes flood my screen.
I see what's up on Facebook...more people telling me "Do what makes you happy".
I'm bombarded by happy! This isn't so bad if it actually made me happy! But honestly, it's a constant reminder that I'm not constantly happy. I begin to think I should be. Should I be?
It makes me doubt my own emotional health and I know better. The research shows there's some downsides to the happy hype.
Did you know that consistently high levels of happiness are as damaging as consistently high levels of sadness and negativity?
Or the fact that high levels of positive emotion and low levels of negative emotion are characteristics of mania and psychopathology?
What about people who seek or feel happy most of the time, are at risk for an earlier mortality?
This isn't bad news though. You actually need less happy, positive emotions than you might have thought. This is an attainable goal! Bonus!
Over the last couple of decades, the Positive Psychology movement has been gaining recognition among students, scholars, and people everywhere. It continues to be the most sought after class taught at Harvard University. People are definitely interested in getting happy! Many of these people are the ones who seemingly have so much already. But why aren't they happy now? I mean, if you have the luxury or opportunity to go to Harvard, your life can't be too unhappy.
People think the happiness hype is as attainable as the fountain of youth!
Thoughts and attitudes don't change reality, they only change your perception of reality, and if you're trying to change your perception of reality then you'll only end up with an illusion.
While others have been jumping on the positivity bandwagon for years now, I was never completely fooled by it because I had watched enough late-night infomercials to know that some (let's be honest...most) things are just too good to be true. You know that hair products that works on "all" hair types. Yeah, sure!
Not everyone arrives at happiness the same way. In fact, as a writer I do my best writing in a melancholy mood. The best things in my life had been born out of the toughest times: For instance, a cancer scare in my late 20's, helped me pinpoint what was truly important in my life.
The happy hype out there makes us feel better, but only for a moment. That's because only contentment and joy bring lasting happiness. When we seek the quick fixes, we wonder why we just can't seem to hang onto that happy feeling. Depressed individuals internalize the thought that it's their fault they are not as happy as they want to be or think they should be.
Changing our definition of happiness is another way we can find contentment. When you think of happiness, what comes to mind? If money, cars, latest tech gadgets, status and prestige, comfort, reflects your answer then you need to seriously redefine happiness.
DIY (Do-it-Yourself) Life tips:
Give up Control- Another tidbit I came up with is giving up control. People relate the amount of things they have control over to how happy they are. 'If only I could get him to love me more'. More control should equal more happiness BUT it doesn't.
Happy at work- There's a middle aged guy that works at a bulk chain store in my area. He is either whistling a tune, singing, or shaking your hand as he greets you on your way in (or out on some days). My first thought other than the genuine happiness he exudes is I would never be happy with his job. Why is that? In fact I've had better jobs than his and I was never happy. Is it possible to be happy in a job we don't naturally love?
The answer: This guy did his best, tried his best, and found a way to make a difference in a rather "insignificant" job. Some people are just meant to make a difference no matter where they are a placed. The job made little difference. He shined in that position and felt good about himself because he did his best. How many of us have done our best at a job only to get discouraged because we weren't recognized for it- that's called external rewards. Then we take our disgruntled behavior to all our subsequent jobs.
Learn something new (or old)- This is pretty self-explanatory. You can reach a state of "Flow" in which you are fully engaged in an activity you enjoy. Get lost in something you enjoy.
Time it right- It's Ok to be sad. Even the Dalai Lama mentioned we all get sick and can't possibly avoid "bad" things. The point is to get some enrichment even from the tough times and to expect them too. If we expect a seamless road to happiness, we're sure to get a big dose of disappointment. Don't dwell in it though. Cancer patients are an excellent example of learning to appreciate things in life after going through their illness.
A counselor friend once told me, "If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or unhappy, you're expectations at the moment are are too high."
Stop pursuing happiness- If you have to go out and search for happiness, it's the wrong kind and it won't be long until you need the next happy high. The reason it doesn't last is because it's not true happiness. Getting married was fun, winning the lottery would be cool, getting the promotion felt good... but the high fades in a really short time afterward.
Try positive affirmations, gratitude, or self-hypnosis CD's and apps- Positive affirmations are tailored to you- you write them down and they mean something personal to you. Hypnosis tackles one troubling area of your life at a time so the focus is clear and often beneficial. Hypnosis works with your subconscious, which knows more about how to attain happiness than your conscious level of awareness. Keeping a gratitude journal helps you see what you have NOW and appreciate it.
The desire for happiness is the essence of being human. We are pleasure seeking creatures. What surrounds this happiness ideal is what matters most. Seek other traits that cultivate happiness:
Resiliency (being able to handle life's inevitable frustrations and disappointments)
Being friendly will open doors for you and surround you with people who want to see you achieve your goals
Gratefulness, as a habit, can help you learn to be content and joyful in the now and setting future goals for that which amounts to lasting joy.
I'm passionate about no-nonsense self-improvement. Too many of us are plagued by faulty thought patterns- I aim to change that!