As the Happyologist, a happiness coach who earns her livelihood from helping people be happy, I should encourage people to chase happiness. But I can't. Why? Because it's the chase that is making people unhappy. And that's a truth we can no longer ignore.
The chase is making people anxious. It's making people overwhelmed. It's making people feel 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 societal misunderstandings about what happiness is. These misunderstandings drive us to unknowingly chase happiness out of our lives, rather than welcoming it in. And they make it hard for us to recognize happiness when it actually hits us, because we are so busy looking for something else.
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 negative feelings.
The truth: Happiness is having the full human experience, including positive and negative emotions.
To have the full human experience, you need to experience the full range of human emotions—the good and the bad, the positive and the negative. They both play a vital role in your survival and 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 also shine a light on things that are wrong and alert you to take action to correct them. 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 when society was more obsessed with success than today. It's all about being the best, making more money, and becoming well known. But none of these things, ironically, fuel your happiness. Study after study has shown that winners aren't happier than losers. Yes, they may have a sense of achievement when they win, but they quickly go back to the baseline happiness level they had before. Equally, as long as your basic needs were already covered, having more money or being famous definitely do not make you happy either.
Truth: Happiness fuels success.
If we focus on our mental, physical, and spiritual health and well-being, 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'll be more productive. If you focus on moving your body and nourishing it with nutrients, you will feel more energetic and joyful. Finally, if you focus on living a life that is meaningful to you, fulfillment will follow.
Myth 3: There is one formula for happiness.
Too many assume we all want the same things in life — and therefore need the same things in life to be happy. This couldn't be further from the truth. Every one of us is a completely unique being. That means that each person will need to create their 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 corporation. 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 — a sense of meaning, purpose, and fulfillment that makes you whole?
As long as you have a good balance of these two in your life, happiness will be there.
Moving forward, strive to eliminate these myths from your thinking, and replace them with these truths. They will help you to take a breath and to slow down, and to naturally welcome a balanced, fulfilling type of happiness into your life.
As the poet Hafiz said, "Ever since happiness heard your name, it has been running through the streets trying to find you."
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