I’m a student of positive psychology and big happiness promoter. I think we all deserve to feel good and find joy in our lives. But is there too much emphasis put on happiness these days? Do you ever feel pressure to be happy?
The idea that we’re all responsible for our own happiness and that happiness is a choice can be empowering.
It’s helpful to know that you can do simple things to increase your happiness. However, despite compelling research that shows these things improve mood, no one can guarantee that if you exercise, connect with others, practice gratitude, and focus on your strengths, you’ll be happy. In reality, there isn’t one formula for happiness. What if you do these things consistently and you’re still not happy? Do you feel like you’re failing when it comes to increasing your happiness?
When we say that anyone can choose to be happy, we run the risk of shaming and blaming people who are depressed or not happy all of the time.
To an extent happiness is a choice and there are cognitive and behavioral strategies that I would recommend as a therapist for increasing your happiness, but this doesn’t mean that everyone will attain the same level of happiness.
If you’re doing all the “right” things and you’re still not happy, it’s not your fault. Accept that this is how you feel right now. It doesn’t mean you won’t ever be happier. And it doesn’t even mean that you have to want to be happy. For some people, happiness isn’t even the goal. We don’t all have to want or expect the same kind of happiness.
We might also do well to broaden our definition of happiness. Perhaps being happy isn’t just a feeling of joy. For me, happiness also includes the complexities of acceptance, forgiveness, peace, overcoming and growing.
You shouldn’t be bullied into feeling happy.
Your feelings are valid. Don’t judge yourself for being depressed or for struggling with a setback or transition. Don’t blame yourself and add to your unhappiness by feeling like you “should” be happier. Comparing yourself to everyone else’s happiness measuring stick will backfire.
Try to stay present with your feelings and accept them without judgment. Pushing yourself to be happy can be tiring, like putting on a mask and pretending to be someone else. Real relationships and real connections require that you show up as your whole self (difficult feelings and all). And if you’re just not that happy right now, that’s OK. You are entitled to feel all of your feelings.
Although I think it’s important to accept and experience all of your feelings, I do urge you to seek help from a qualified mental health professional if you have thoughts of suicide or self-harm. You can also call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
©2016 Sharon Martin, LCSW. All rights reserved.
Sharon Martin, LCSW writes about happiness, self-acceptance, codependency and healthy relationships for PsychCentral, the Good Men Project, and other publications. Follow her work on Facebook and receive highlights of her writing and other projects through her newsletter.