As the Happyologist, a happiness coach that earns her livelihood from making people happy, I should encourage people to chase happiness. Except I can’t. Why? Because it’s the chase that is making people unhappy. And, in light of Mental Health Awareness Week, it’s a truth we can no longer ignore.
It’s the chase that is making people anxious. It’s the chase that is making people overwhelmed. It’s the chase that is making people feel the pressure that they have to be happy all the time. This is a big problem. But, luckily, it’s a solvable one.
A lot of the anxiety and pressure around happiness come from society wide misunderstandings about what happiness is. These misunderstandings are what drive us to unknowingly chase happiness out of our lives rather than welcoming it in. They also make it hard for us to recognise happiness when it actually hits us because we are so busy looking for something else.
That’s why in this post I want to debunk three of the most common myths around happiness – and offer you the science based truths. It’s these truths that will help you to stop the chase and welcome in the joy.
Myth 1: Happiness is the absence of negative emotions.
This myth is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to your happiness. Happiness is not about being happy 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Happiness is not about always smiling, laughing and being joyful. Happiness is not about being numb to the negative feelings you have.
Truth: Happiness is having the full human experience including both positive and negative emotions.
In order for you to have the full human experience on this planet, you need to experience the full range of human emotions. That means both the good and the bad, the positive and the negative. They both play a vital role in your survival and in your ability to thrive. Positive emotions make you feel good and tell you when things are right. Negative emotions might make you feel uncomfortable, but they shine light on things that are wrong and alert you to take action to correct the situation. Don’t shy away from the negative emotions because they are like a compass guiding your way. Simply learn to manage them in an effective way so they don’t overpower the positive ones.
Myth 2: Success fuels happiness.
I don’t remember a time in my life where society was more obsessed with success than it is today. It’s all about being the best, making more money, and being well known. None of these things, ironically, fuel your happiness. Research after research have shown that winners aren’t happier than losers. Yes, they will have a sense of achievement when they win, but they quickly go back to the standard happiness level they were in before. Equally, as long as your basic needs are covered, having more money, or being famous, definitely do not make you happy either.
Truth: Happiness fuels success.
If we can focus on our mental, physical, and spiritual health and wellbeing, the type of success we actually want will naturally follow. If you focus on having a calm mind and a present being, you will feel less stressed and you will be more productive. If you focus on moving your body and nourishing it with nutrients, you will feel more energetic and joyful. And finally, if you focus on living a life that is meaningful to you, fulfilment will follow.
Myth 3: There is one formula for happiness.
Too many assume we all want the same things in life – and hence need the same things in life to be happy. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Every single person on this planet is a completely unique being. That means that every single person will need to create its own unique life that is right for them to be fulfilled.
Truth: There is no one size fits all for happiness.
You might be happiest as a director in a big corporate. Or you might be happiest as a one-(wo)man-show entrepreneur. Or you might be happiest as a stay at home parent. There is no right or wrong, because only you know what is right for you. When in doubt, just ask yourself these two questions:
1) What gives you hedonic happiness – the momentary joy, pleasure and contentment in your life?
2) What gives you eudaimonic happiness – that sense of meaning, purpose and fulfilment that makes you whole?
As long as you have a good balance of these two in your life, happiness will be there.
Eliminate these myths from your head for good. Replace them with these new truths. It is these truths that will help you to take a breath and to slow down. It is these truths that will help you to naturally welcome a balanced, fulfilling type of happiness into your life.
And, as poet Hafiz said, it’s on its way to you: “Ever since happiness heard your name, it has been running through the streets trying to find you.”