When you think of happiness, what comes to mind? I’m betting you imagined having a home, stable finances, a loving partner, a pet, or being on a never ending vacation. At least in our society this is the message we’re fed about what happiness looks like. If that were the case, how many people do you think are truly happy in the world? It feels like we use happiness as a measure of how good our life is or if we’re living right…whatever that’s supposed to mean.
Most of us are conditioned to believe certain things about happiness, which leads to a lot of stress, shame, and disappointment. Here are a few major myths about being happy, debunked:
Myth #1: Happiness is a consistent state of being.
It is humanly impossible to be happy 100% of the time. We forget that happiness is actually an emotion and emotions are temporary. If you took a step back and paid attention to how your emotional state changed throughout the day, you may be surprised to learn that you feel several emotions in a short period of
time! Happiness is not a way of being or existing, it’s a feeling. We cannot know what happiness is without knowing and feeling pain, grief, anger, sadness, and shame. We don’t get to pick and choose what emotions we experience, therefore we cannot be consistently happy.
Myth #2: Happiness should be what we strive for in life.
If you’ve ever heard or learned about the phrase “chasing happiness,” then you know exactly what I’m talking about. Again, happiness is an emotion and we cannot strive to only feel certain emotions. If you strive for happiness (that could be marriage, a dream job, or dream home, etc.), what will happen when you finally get that thing that makes you happy? As humans, we get bored fairly easily and even when something amazing enters our life (a pet, person, job, money) we eventually get used to it. That means, when you get all the things you think will make you happy, that happiness will only be temporary. This is why striving for happiness (an emotion, don’t forget) keeps us unhappy and stuck in a constant cycle of disappointment. Seems counterintuitive, right?
Myth #3: We know what will make us happy.
If we believe that we know what will make us happy, then we’re essentially saying we can predict the future. We can take past experiences to create ideas about what we think will make us happy, but we can never be completely sure. Have you ever gotten or accomplished something that you thought would make you happy, but it actually didn’t? This isn’t an uncommon experience. So many people think “once I graduate, once I get that job, once I’m with that person” they’ll “finally” be happy. When we expect to feel a certain way about something in the future, we may be setting ourselves up for disappointment. The best we can do is make assumptions about what will bring happiness, fulfillment, passion into our lives, then do those things to find out (and release any expectations we have about them).
Pain is an inevitable part of the human experience. We experience death, losses, and move through life events that change us to our core. But we also learn from pain, then we take that knowledge and become a better human because of it. Happiness feels wonderful to experience, but remember that you can’t have that without the hard stuff too.