Our obsession with being happy

by Carmen Visser

Happiness – “the state of feeling of showing pleasure about / with something” or “the state of being satisfied that something is good or right”, as defined by Oxford Learner’s Dictionary.

From this definition, it is clear that feeling happy is temporary and can change quickly. Moreover, happiness is also closely linked with joy, pleasure, excitement, optimism, gratitude and serenity. Each of these come from different aspects of our lives.

Aristotle, an ancient Greek philosopher, made a clear division between two forms of happiness. The first, Hedonia, comes from moments of pleasure and satisfaction in life. It is a relatively short-term state of happiness but can be reached easily. The second, Eudaimonia, comes from finding value and meaning in one’s life. As expected, this is a bit harder to reach but lasts significantly longer.

So, the critical question now is where does one find happiness?

Image by Hybrid on Unsplash

You might have heard the saying that “money doesn’t buy happiness” or that your lifelong partner should “make you happy”, but the truth is that happiness is not as simple a concept. It is, however, possible to find happiness in many different aspects of your life.

Happiness can be found in careers, goals, moral values, family, physical health and other social relationships. Positive Psychology explains how our happiness depends on our individual ideologies and priorities. Therefore different combinations of the above can lead to happiness.

The thought of happiness and the positive connotations alongside it have been implemented in our everyday lives. For example, there are endless songs, quotes, books, documentaries and movies that stress the importance of happiness. There is even a website devoted to “exploring happiness and well-being” (www.happiness.com).

Album art of the single “Happy” by Pharrell Williams.

We have placed significant focus on the state of happiness and, when one considers its impressively long list of benefits, it makes perfect sense. However, being relentlessly reminded about how important happiness is can be exhausting and stressful.

You might feel overwhelmed by the pressure and think you are failing at life simply because you are not happy. You could also constantly search for new goals, new hobbies and new people hoping that they make you happy. You might even put on a fake smile and pretend to be happy every day. Either way, continuously trying to be happy all the time might just push you down a tumbling path towards discontent and dissatisfaction. So, how do you avoid this?

Image by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

The first and most important thing you can do is understand that you will never be permanently happy. There is a whole spectrum of emotions to feel and if you were endlessly happy, that giddy feeling that comes with happiness would lose its magic. Accepting this fact immediately takes some pressure off.

The next thing to do is to stop obsessing over happiness. Yes, stop asking yourself why you are not happy even though everything in your life seems perfect. Yes, stop fixating on tiny details hoping that changing them will make you happy. It is not worth your time or energy. I know these two steps are not as simple as they sound, but they will prove to be immensely helpful in the long run.

VeryWellMind states that “Happiness isn’t a goal that you can simply reach and be done with. It is a constant pursuit that requires continual nurturing and sustenance.”. This tactic is a great way to ensure that you are focusing on yourself and what you need.

I think the best approach to take towards finding happiness is simply to be kind to yourself. Be kind to yourself by not judging your sad days or getting frustrated by them. Be kind to yourself by looking after your mind, heart and body in whatever way you need to. Be kind to yourself by setting realistic yet ambitious goals and motivating yourself to achieve them. And finally, be kind to yourself by loving who you are.

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