How We Grow Our Unhappiness
The Faults of 3 Common Happiness Myths
Being human isn’t easy. And yet, the views we often hold run counter to that fact. These ideas set us up for further heartache and pain. Furthermore, they are ideas that are implicitly prevalent in society. What are these ideas that exacerbate our unhappiness?
The first of these is the myth that happiness is the natural state of humankind. This is often what we see from those around us. After all, over time nearly all of us have learned to put up a good front. We see this on social media with photos of exotic vacations, promotion announcements, so-and-so having published a new book, etc. We see those images of happiness happening out there. However, what these posts often don’t show is the tension at home that new promotion created, with more time now spent in the office. Or the earlier wake-up and/or later bedtime to get it all done.
The truth is, happiness is a sometime state of mind. We are bound to experience displeasure and unease. It is normal to fret before a big presentation and anxiety over the uncertainty in one’s life is also a natural response. However, by relating to our unhappiness as unnatural, we tend to dwell on it, judge it, and in the process, become irritable, frustrated, or depressed. In short, we add fire to our unhappiness. We cause it to grow.
If we’re unhappy, we may even judge ourselves. Another unspoken myth we hold is that if we’re not happy, there MUST be something wrong with us. Right? After all, if we believe that happiness is natural, and we’re NOT happy, then doesn’t that make us somehow unnatural? Therefore, to fit in, we often hide our unhappiness, which can lead to negative consequences. (The idea of common humanity, as presented in this article, refutes this idea. With common humanity, we see that we are not alone in our suffering.)
The final most common happiness myth, according to Acceptance and Commitment Training guru Dr. Russ Harris, is that in our minds, we equate happiness with feeling good. We crave pleasure, contentment, euphoria. However, how long do those things last? By highly valuing these fleeting feelings, we set ourselves up for disappointment when we do not get them, which can make us either feel more despondent, or cause us to hop on the hedonic treadmill, always chasing after our next fix.
What if, instead, we chose to view happiness as a life rich in meaning? What if we saw happiness as living a life according to our values? If we gave priority to these things, and put less emphasis on happiness as fleeting pleasure, how could that change our lives? How would it change yours?