“Don’t worry, be happy.” Such a simple quote, yet so demanding.
Often times when things don’t go our way or we are faced with adversity, we are told to pick ourselves up, move on, smile and be happy. We are being told by the people around us that “being happy” is the quick fix to our failures. Although the ability to think positive in any situation is a seemingly good quality, this message can get lost in a person’s pursuit to be happy. In fact, pressures to be happy can unknowingly cause a person to be unhappy. Pretty ironic!
How is it that our journey to achieve happiness is ultimately doing the opposite effect on us? According to Svend Brinkmann, a Danish psychology professor, forcing ourselves to be happy at all times is stunting our emotions.
“I believe our thoughts and emotions should mirror the world. When something bad happens, we should be allowed to have negative thoughts and feelings about it because that’s how we understand the world,” says Brinkmann.
When we are given messages by loved ones, friends and even social media to always seek out happiness, we’re actually being set up for failure. When experiencing emotions such as disappointment, sadness, heartbreak and failure, we begin to feel as though we’re deviating from the end goal of happiness.
What if we stopped making happiness a resting place? What if we began to teach ourselves and others around us that emotions that aren’t “happy” are helping us become the person we are meant to be? Focusing on simply being happy leads us to hide how we truly feel. In order to keep up the facade that we’re looking on the bright side of things and keeping positive, we bottle up our emotions. Without feeling these natural reactions to hardships in our lives, we will never grow.
Brinkmann also mentions that desperately trying to be happy at all times is dangerous, especially when we are faced with tragedies such as death and loss. He explains that if we fall into a pattern of forcing happiness onto ourselves, we won’t be able to cope with misfortune.
Instead of constantly evaluating our happiness, we should try evaluating our negative feelings and ask ourselves how they contribute to our wholeness. Wholeness is the idea that as a person, we accept that we cannot change the circumstances around us. It is also moving toward self-improvement by utilizing our limitations and shortcomings as learning lessons.
So, instead of asking “why me?” or telling yourself to move on and be happy, try asking yourself, “how is this contributing to my self growth?” Life is never permanently happy, so why hold happiness to be a default position? We should rather feel everything in our lives and treat happiness as little victories that come every so often.
Instead of over-analyzing your happiness, realize that happiness comes and goes.