How are you feeling in the moment? This may be the most important question to ask yourself, especially in this day and age. Are you angry, sad, fearful? More specifically, at whom is your feeling directed?
I bet you think you know the answer: “my spouse and maybe even my children.” But I think one can make the argument that who you’re really upset with is you.
Okay, of course, I can’t say that for sure, but I feel like we spend a lot of time obsessing over the notion that we must be happy all the time. With that said, a number of questions must be asked: questions like, what is my definition of happiness? How do I achieve it? Is happiness really what I think it is?
In order to answer these questions, one must do so honestly. Moreover, one needs to accept certain things about what it is to be human.
Are we in a steady state of being?
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that our entire existence is full of contradictions. A fact that can, in some instances, lead us down the road to mental illness. For instance, we all know that we experience a whole range of emotions – so if this is true, why then do we, at the same time, want to prioritize just one emotion?
What is this much sought-after feeling, you ask? It’s happiness. We chase after it like it’s some sort of tangible item, a trophy we deserve just for trying. We see it as the ultimate prize, and that winning it will make our fairytale dream life come true. However, this simply isn’t the case.
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Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that you shouldn’t pursue what it is you’re passionate about. What I am saying is that, along with the pursuit of our dreams, life’s ups and downs are proof that happiness is a real human emotion and therefore, subject to the ebb and flow that make us who we are. In other words, happiness isn’t something you can possess; rather, it is a fluctuating state of being, as are the rest of our emotions.
The happiness – depression connection.
So then, if we accept that the idea that happiness is raw emotion and not something that we can permanently acquire, what are the psychological repercussions?
In my view, being happy all comes down to how we feel in the moment. However, our mythical conceptualization of happiness is, for, many, a road of pain, fear and anxiety.
This begs the question: is the pursuit of happiness really just a journey down the spiral staircase to mental illness? Because we as people are always in a state of emotional flux, one is bound to come head-to-head with their other emotions: anger, sadness, fear and frustration. Are they wrong? Should we beat ourselves up for them and feel shame? I say no.
What’s more, it’s how you are feeling in the moment that really matters.
Only you can truly answer these questions for yourself. With that said, if we buy into the idea that we should always be happy, won’t we be setting ourselves up for failure? Can our misunderstanding of emotions as a whole lead us to depression and anxiety, or, even worse, lead us to develop anxiety and depressive disorders?
Look at it this way, we can never always be angry, nor can we always be sad or anxious; happiness is the same. We would do well to work on staying focused on the here and now, and not beating ourselves up for feeling the range of emotions that are innate in all of us. Furthermore, if you don’t achieve your goal of being permanently happy, remember two things: one, we were never designed to be and two, it’s okay that you can’t.
What’s more, it’s how you are feeling in the moment that really matters; accepting that we are creatures who come standard with a wide range of feelings, will, ironically, make one more satisfied with life. As you move through your life, you will experience an accumulation of wonderful memories. When you paste it together, you will see just what it means to be happy.
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