There seems to be a recent trend over the past few years of people reading, watching, and listening to things on how to be happier.
Happiness projects, Happiness journals, Happiness this and that… it kind of shows up in your face every where you go – in person and even online.
The one problem with trying to be happy all the time is that it is futile.
I feel like it’s a massive marketing scheme to just sell “Happy” as something you can buy, when it is actually the complete opposite.
Have you ever been happy 100% of the time and were happy and enjoying said happiness?
Know why? Because it is partly that you need a little unhappiness to BE happy.
This is the crux of the problem of why people who are super rich, report higher than average instances of dissatisfaction versus those who are not super rich, even some living in the slums of India, as being the happiest on earth.
It is because they are never UNhappy.
So when they are supposed to be happy, based on some societal ideal of what happiness is (oh I drive a big car, live in a mansion, have anything I could wish for), they are actually very unhappy because that stuff is all empty, meaningless and immaterial because it doesn’t fill that void inside.
Everyone has everything they need but we’re all unhappy.
These are the themes I am hearing repeated over and over again as being the keys to happiness:
Being unhappy at times so that when you are happy, you appreciate / recognize it and don’t take it for granted.
Having a strong community / bonds and connecting with others because we are all humans, who need to feel accepted and loved at some level. We crave it, and those who say they don’t need such connections, are the ones who need them the most.
Stop focusing on accumulating more stuff and focus on experiences which by the way, also include bonding with others.
Not focusing on what you have versus what someone else has.
Having a sense of independence, choice and agency over your life.
Part of this unhappiness problem we seem to be facing even though we are right now, at a point in our society where things like having the world at your fingertips, or being able to connect virtually and Skype with someone to see their face across the world is POSSIBLE, is that we are taking it all for granted.
Isn’t that just a sure fire, solid way to guarantee being depressed, jealous and unhappy?
We seem to be constantly unhappy with what we have because we aren’t seeing the cup as being half full with what we do have and should be grateful for, and instead of having a rosy outlook, we are seeing the cup is half empty because our neighbour has more in theirs.
There is no sense of individualized moments where we say: Let’s take a break today to be grateful for what I have. Be proud of how far I have come given my circumstances, and be thrilled with what I have done and what I will do.
We seem to have missed out on that act of being grateful for what we do have, and are focusing on what we don’t have.
As for careers and jobs in general, I can say the #1 reason for being dissatisfied is not feeling like you have any control over your job, and are independent in it.
Let’s say you work under a micromanager, and he undercuts you at every turn by jumping in to take the glory and credit without EVER giving any due to his team. Wouldn’t that make you depressed?
Or how about that you are told: You do A and you are not allowed to do B. We are not going to even talk about you possibly branching out to C because you do A. You do it well, and you get paid, so be quiet.
A sense of purpose, a sense of upward mobility or at least a feeling of accomplishment is very important in a job, but I daresay even in life, it is nice to feel accomplished by having a skill like cooking or playing an instrument, or speaking three languages proudly under your belt.
Our happiness in the end, is really in our control as a state of mind.
Sure, we can do things like buy a pair of boots here and there (GUILTY AS CHARGED) to feel a burst of happiness, but that is short-lived. I know that. It’s just stuff.
True, long-term happiness has to be a renewable source that is deep within you and constantly fed by those around you because of the bonds you have and make, and the sense of acceptance, belonging and feeling that you CAN change how you are, who you are and what you do.
That, can’t really be bought.
I joke a lot about buying happiness, but in reality, I know it can’t be purchased.
Even with all the money I have saved, I am happy I have that money and am financially secure, but it’s just money at the end of the day – to live and buy stuff with – it is just a tool.
The true happiness I feel is in knowing I CAN live without having to work for a while without stressing out about paying my bills, and when I spend my money on gifts for others, I feel a great sense of happiness in having made someone else feel better.
I agree that having more money would make most people happier, but just appreciating that you are living in a country (at least I am) that is safe from war and generally cares for its citizens, is already something to be grateful for.
Sure it doesn’t put food on the table, but you can always say to yourself:
Hey it could be worse. I could be in a war-torn country missing half my family.
Or living in a country under a dictator and being unable to work to make a living wage to pay for your family.
That sense of despair, lack of choice and agency over your life is very debilitating.
Instead, I am worrying about #FirstWorldProblems like what preschool to sign my son up for, and whether I should eat another KitKat or not. (I’m being facetious but you get the idea).