Happiness. Isn’t that the essential goal of our existence? In one way or another, we are all just looking to live a happy life. You would think it would be simple, just following two words: be happy.
Unfortunately, as we all have realized, it’s not quite that simple. Anxiety and depression are at all-time highs throughout America, and we just have to turn on the TV to see enough suffering to make us lose hope in the idea of true happiness. What is happiness anyways, and why is it so hard to find? Why can’t we just be happy?
The truth is that we are under the influence of some huge misconceptions about happiness.
1. Happiness comes from material things
We may feel temporary satisfaction from material objects, like the sensation when you buy your first house or your partner gives you an amazing birthday present. Long term happiness, or true happiness at all, however, can only grow from things that cannot be touched, seen, or tasted.
It’s interesting if you think about it, because even the satisfaction we get from physical things doesn’t come from the object itself, but an emotion or experience that is connected with it. A first home brings the feeling of security, of putting down roots and having a place to find peace. A special gift from your partner reminds you how thoughtful they are, and how much you love them. Even new clothes make us feel confident, attractive, and give us the chance to express ourselves.
Building on that, we can come to understand that it’s not the physical objects that we need. We need the connections, the emotional states, and the experiences that come with them. You can feel the same amazing romance and love whether your partner proposes with a $10 or a $10,000 ring; it’s all about perspective.
2. Happiness only comes when life is perfect
We often delude ourselves to think that in order to be happy we must have all of our ideal conditions fulfilled. We must have a nice house and a healthy income and a perfect partner and a loving family and well-behaved children and a dog named Lucky and red BMW and no worries whatsoever – then we will be happy.
But let’s be honest, how many people can honestly say that they have every single one of their ideal conditions met? Do you honestly believe that will happen to you anytime soon? And do you plan to wait around in misery until that day comes? Of course not!
Happiness is a choice. Look around you. What are the things you value the most? They can be tiny things, and maybe you never even considered them before. Maybe it’s the fact that your best friend is coming to visit next week or your boss complimented your work yesterday. Maybe your kid drew you a picture to hang on your fridge or your mom called to see how you’re doing.
When we start appreciating the tiny things, we realize that the greatest and most amazing gift we have is the fact that we are alive another day.
3. Happiness is a transitory emotion
I hear a lot from people that happiness can only be a temporary state of mind, like when you’re eating your favorite food or working on something you love. However, the truth is that happiness is a lifestyle, a point of view; it’s the lens you look through in all the experiences of your life, good or bad.
I’m not trying to say that every moment of our lives we will be happy, because that’s completely unrealistic. I mean, we all go through hard times at one point or another; we all make mistakes, get unlucky, and get hurt somehow. Life is like a rollercoaster ride, with its ups and downs and loops and twists. Happiness is learning to enjoy the ride, even if it scares us sometimes.
A lifetime happy person sees hard times for what they are: temporary rough patches that lead to a brighter tomorrow. There is no need for depression or self-pity, because these negative emotions will only bring more suffering. Instead, a lifetime person uses these times to learn from his/her mistakes, and to grow.
4. Happiness is only for those who deserve it
It’s easy to feel guilty for what we have when we look on the news and see starving children and fleeing refugees. It’s easy to ask, “why do I deserve to be happy when these people are suffering so much? What gives me the right?” And then we bring ourselves more distress because we start feeling bad about feeling good. How does that make sense?
Now I want to say something that is very important, and it is this: there is not a single person in this world that does not deserve to be happy. The pursuit of happiness is a basic human right that cannot be taken from anyone, and it was considered so vital that it was included in the Declaration of Independence. So why should we ever feel guilty?
Even criminals and outcasts of society still have the right to find happiness, and who are we to deny it? Of course the law still applies, but overall social status should not affect whether someone can seek happiness.
Sometimes we even convince ourselves that we are not worthy, that due to mistakes x, y and z we no longer qualify for happiness. This is more a matter of self-forgiveness. We all make mistakes, and we all deserve the chance to fix those mistakes, move on, and learn to be happy again.
So whether you are a victim of one or all of these misconceptions about happiness, make the decision to make a change today. Look up, smile more, and take a step towards your happiness.