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  • Writer's pictureLJW

Have We Made Happiness Too Hard to Find?

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

Did you wake up today feeling down? Do you think you need to do something quickly to overcome that feeling and get your emotions back on the happiness track? Does your husband or friend try to cheer you up? Do you feel like a failure if you don’t feel happy?

Consider this quote: “When people place a great deal of pressure on themselves to feel happy, or think that others around them do, they are more likely to see their negative emotions and experiences as signals of failure. This will only drive more unhappiness.” Brock Bastian

I’ll be happy when….

I realized in my 20’s that I was consistently waiting for the next thing to happen for me to feel happy. In my research for this article, this way of thinking has a name, Deferred Happiness Syndrome. I wanted and needed to finish my degree, to meet the perfect partner, to purchase a home, and start my family, then I would be happy. When I achieved one thing, there was always the next thing. I wasted years waiting and putting my trust that the next thing would help me feel complete and happy. Is this you? Are you waiting for something to happen to feel happiness? Focusing on achieving or getting “the thing,” caused me to miss the best parts of every day, right in the moment. Plus, trying so hard to find happiness made me sad and confirmed to myself I was lacking in some way.

Pressure to be Happy

This quote resonates with me from a fictional book I was reading, After She Left, by Claire Amarti. “I think, maybe there’s too much pressure to be happy…People make it sound like we’re supposed to feel that way all the time, unless there’s something wrong. But I don’t think happiness is a default setting. I think most of the time, we’re just normal.”

Everyday Happiness

Try rating your day on a happiness scale of 1-10, with 10 being over the moon happy. Where do you come in on that scale today? Realize that a 10 is very infrequent and happens only a few times in our lifetime! My 10 days were my wedding day, the birth of my child, and the few days after my boss told me I achieved the salary I worked for all my life. Basically, I exist around a 5. Right in the middle, a normal 5. I call this ‘everyday happiness.’ If some days slip below a 5, well so be it. Whatever went on to slide that scale down may well be worth the slide. If I failed to help a friend in need, or my cat companion that I’ve had for 20 years is sick (you fill in the blank here), there’s a slide! I realize how normal it is to slide down to a 3. I just know that it will go back to the 5.

I’ve decided it’s ok to allow myself the time needed to get back to my everyday normal happiness. Feeling unhappy is part of being normal. Let it be. Then, when you are ready, shuck it off like taking off a heavy winter coat.

It’s also true that somedays I may come in at an 8. The sun is shining, my heart is full of love, and I feel great to be alive. Isn’t it normal that the range of happy emotions register differently on different days?

Steps to Try

If ready, there’s a few things we can do to help us shake off the heavy coat of sadness:

1. Focus on what is going right for you. Focus on something small yet enjoyable. Try to see the good in something happening right now, without delaying it for a later acquisition or timing. Don’t make happiness too hard to find. It can be in the smallest of things. A flower, a sunrise, a warm shower. Keep it simple, small, and ordinary.

2. Remember you are the only one in charge of your feelings. When thrift shopping one day I spotted and bought a small pillow that says, “I’m happy, don’t ruin it.” I love this little pillow, but the truth is, happiness is a choice that I make, not what someone wants for me or does to make it so. You can accept how you feel, try to change it, ignore it, but your feelings are yours. Give yourself permission to be whatever it is that you are today. If you decide you’ve had enough of sadness, then it’s up to you to change it, slowly, carefully, and in your own timing.

3. Time to hang out with your positive thinking happy friend. Who we surround ourselves with makes a huge difference in how we view life. I let go of some of my friendships that brought me down. This was not done lightly, but after realizing that hanging out with this downer person was seriously rubbing off on me. If you need a little boost to your day, spend some time with someone who see the glass half full.

4. Monitor your loop of self-talk. Are you being too hard on yourself? Are you thinking the worst about every situation you’re in? Are you excessively thinking you’re bad, look bad, and the world is bad? Give yourself a break. Stop it! You can change self-talk. I’ve done this over time, so I know you can too. Start to reverse your negative self-talk loop by allowing yourself to find something (even if it’s small) that’s good about you. I recently asked a client to tell me her strengths. It took her time to come up with them, but once she did, we were able to emphasize them in helping her make choices for her life. You have strengths, and you have a specific place in this world. Find your own strengths and use them for your happiness.

5. Need more ideas on how to achieve simple everyday happiness? Try the ideas in this book, “Crazy Simple Steps to Feeling Happier.”

Disclaimer: This article is not addressing the clinical diagnosis of depression. There’s a difference between depression and feeling sad or down. You can read about it here.

Has happiness been too hard for you to find? Let's talk together.

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May 18, 2023

This was very helpful! JG

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