What we get wrong about happiness

This is what we get wrong about happiness. However, we can still find it if we stop doing this…

Jonathan Arenburg
Jonathan Arenburg

Jonathan is a mental health blogger, published author, and speaker. He has appeared in numerous newspapers and has been a guest on many podcasts.

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If I’ve learnt anything from my life’s journey, it’s that happiness is NOT a goal. “I want to be happy” is the answer we commonly give when we are asked “What do you want to get out of life?”

Personally, I feel that this fundamental misunderstanding has gotten us into trouble. See, when we set goals for ourselves, they enviably come with a set of expectations. What’s more, we can meet these expectations through, let’s say, pursuing a degree. And ultimately, many of us walking across the stage to snatch up the degree we worked hard on.

So, in other words, we worked toward the thing that we felt would make us happy. But was the journey to realize said “happy” full of joy and splendor? I highly doubt that the majority of us, whistled Dixie and smiled all day long.

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Instead, we pulled all-nighters, we had the work piled on us, class after class…and our ability to cope? Well, let’s just say that miniature breakdowns aren’t uncommon.

Is this happy? Have you reached the goal that brings you joy? Of course not. Which brings us to another, perhaps more accurate, saying – “No pain, no gain.”

To understand this further, we must ask ourselves; “What is happiness?” Really, what is it? Furthermore, if it’s not a goal, then how do we obtain it?

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If you guessed an emotion, congratulations – you’d be right. And as an emotion, does the happy throttle always remain open? No, if it did, I’m sure it would end up in the DSM-V as a mental disorder.

It should come as no surprise that human emotion, can’t sustain themselves. Rather, we experience them on a range of intensity. Often predicted by a scenario we face. A fender-bender in a parking lot, for example, may cause us to rage in the moment, but we likely will moderate over an hour or so.

And the same can be said about the emotion called happy. Say you love to cook, that the feeling that you created something from nothing, makes you happy. However, when it’s time to do the dishes, the great feeling fades. But then, you look over and notice your hard work. Ta-da! Happy again.

“I Love to cook but hate doing the dishes.” Is a perfect example to show us happiness is not really a goal. Sure, it can be a motivator in a sense, but even the thought of, “I should cook today” is because it was a happy thought to begin with..

At the end of the day, happiness is an emotion and therefore, made up in moments, not end goals and material things. So, learn to enjoy the many wonderful moments of joy life will bring. When it’s all said and done, these unadulterated instances of joy will be what you cherish.

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Jonathan Arenburg

Jonathan Arenburg is a mental health blogger, S speaker, writer, and published author; He is also the host of the mental wellness podcast, #thewellnesstalks He has also appeared in the i'Mpossible's Lemonade Stand III. He has also been a contributing writer for Mental health talk, a column in his local paper. In addition, he has also written for the mental health advocacy organization; Sick Not Weak. Jonathan has also appeared on several mental health-related podcasts Including: A New Dawn, The Depression Files, Books and Authors, and Men Are Nuts. Since being put off work because of PTSD, Jonathan has dedicated his time to his mental wellness journey while helping others along the way. Educated as an addictions' counsellor, he has dedicated most of his professional life of eighteen years, working with those who have intellectual disabilities, behavioural challenges, and mental illness. He has also spent fifteen years in the volunteer fire service helping his community. His new book (2021), “The Road To Mental Wellness,” goes into detail about his life-long battle with depression, anxiety and more recently, PTSD. In it, he hopes to provide insight on how mental illness cultivates over a lifetime and, if not recognized and treated, how it impacts the entirety of one's life; right from childhood into the adult years. Jonathan lives with his two children in Nova Scotia, Canada.

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