Happiness for many is not an easy choice and for some, not even a believable possibility. In today’s fast paced society, 1 in 10 adults attempt suicide and 1 in 5 people suffer from one form or another of mental health. The effects of human suffering found in loneliness, sadness, isolation, stigma, divorce, prejudice, racism, work stress, marginalization, grief and loss, disenfranchisement, addictions, lack of purpose or inner meaning, and trauma; all contribute to the unattainable beliefs and therefore, challenges for one to buy into the concept of happiness as a way of life.
True happiness is rare. According to Harrus, 2008, he reports that there are:
4 Myths of Happiness
Myth #1 – Happiness is the Natural state for all human beings
Many people walk around living life with the belief that everyone else is happy, but them. This only creates a condition of greater unhappiness. Happiness is not a natural state and actually requires us to look at how our beliefs were form, our core beliefs, situational beliefs, environmental conditions, and degree of connection versus disconnection.
Myth #2 – If you’re not happy, you’re defective
An individual’s human suffering has come to be understood as something we need to rescue. Western society has underlying beliefs that those with mental health are viewed as weak. Suffering is not weakness or defective. Healthy people with normal thought patterns will experience periods in their life that have psychological suffering. Suffering is a key component of the human condition.
Myth #3 – To create a better life, you must get rid of negative feelings
Well, this myth is short sighted in that the things we value and mean the most to us do come with both positive and negative emotions. For example, long term meaningful relationships do come with both amazing feelings of satisfaction and joy, but also disappointment, sorrow, and frustration. Life is built on positive and negative energy. Wind in the air have positive and negative components, batteries have positives and negatives, thoughts have positives and negatives, and magnets have equally the same. Excitement, joy and enthusiasm can also come with anxiousness, anxiety and fear all at the same time. Negative thoughts are all part of our make up.
Myth #4 – You should be able to control what you think and feel
We really have far less control over thoughts than what we think we do. We do have a huge amount of control of our behaviours to thoughts. Trying to fill your head with positive thoughts with the underlying beliefs that your negative thoughts will subside is less promising. Our minds have evolved over many, many centuries and therefore, thinking a few thoughts won’t change the brains homeostatic functioning.
So then, what do we do?
Controlling outcome is what the problem really is and the skills or lack of, that we use to do this is what creates the Happiness paradox. In order to feel happy, we end up trying harder to feel happy, and we at the same time, try to control what we are feeling to achieve this desired outcome. This creates new difficulties – we end up using copious amounts of energy, which in the end is ineffective. We start to feel hopeless, defective and weak that the actual feeling we are trying to eliminate, frankly keep coming back.
How can you achieve periods of happiness?
Avoiding unwanted thoughts and feelings is the means to eventually experiencing happiness. Allowing yourself to understand that thoughts are not truths or facts, but instead sensations that can be explored. Thoughts often lead to stories we tell ourselves like “I’m stupid” or “I’m worthless”. Thoughts are really just stories with a bunch of words connecting it all together. Rather than trying to change unwanted negative thoughts, see them for what they are, a string of words.
Acceptance is the means to peace. Here’s a thought: develop that courage to solve those problems that can be solved, the serenity to accept those problems that can’t be solved, and the wisdom to know the difference. If you are not thrilled with your happiness and life, you will at some point want to take action to change it. Starting from a place of acceptance will be far more effective for you. This will lessen the tension, struggles, and energy you waste, as compared to creating space for acceptance for effective change.
Be well Ian