What we get wrong about happiness

So, what is happiness and how do we achieve it? Here’s my thoughts on how to be happy.

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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 it’s 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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What we get wrong about happiness – copyright, 2022

Jonathan Arenburg

Jonathan Reginald-Nixon Arenburg (Born January 14, 1976) is a Canadian mental health blogger, speaker, and published author. Retired from the fire service and long-term care fields, he has written and self-published an autobiographical account of his life-long battle with anxiety, depression and more recently, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Titled, The Road To Mental Wellness, he wrote it for what he calls “therapeutic release.” He published it in hopes it would help others going through similar mental health conditions. The sales of The Road To Mental Wellness have been steady selling over 300 copies since its release on October 10, 2021(World Mental Health Day). Arenburg has also been involved in a collaborative publication Called Lemonade Stand Volume III, a book featuring 20 authors who bravely tell their stories of PTSD. All authors where from the military and or emergency services. Published by Joshua Rivedal and Kathleen Myers for the i’Mpossible project, a mental health advocacy organization. Jonathan has also appeared on several mental health podcasts including The Depression Files, A New Dawn, and The Above Ground Podcast Arenburg has also consulted with the Government of Nova Scotia and the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, the Honorable Brian Comer and Candidates for the New Democratic Party of Canada, on improving the mental health care system in Canada. Additionally, Jonathan was recognized in The Nova Scotia Legislature by the Honorable, Chris Palmer, Kings-North MLA, for his Book, The Road To Mental Wellness, his fight to make the mental health care system better. In addition, Chis acknowledged the support he gives to others.

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