Is happiness overrated? Maybe.. maybe not! But is constantly chasing happiness having an oppositive effect on your mental health, absolutely! This World Happiness Day, we at MHT India thought to explore the most common emotion, happiness, and look at the same with a critical eye.
First, what exactly is Happiness?
Research in the field of positive psychology often defines a happy person as someone who experiences frequent positive emotions, such as joy, interest, and pride, and infrequent (though not absent) negative emotions, such as sadness, anxiety, and anger (Lyubomirsky et al., 2005). If we were to go by this outlook, a happy individual would be somebody who is joyful, cheerful, and smiling the majority of the time.
Happiness is an emotional state characterized by feelings of joy, satisfaction, contentment, and fulfillment. (Kendra Cherry., 2020). When people usually talk about happiness or being happy, they usually are referring to a set of emotions that they felt at a particular moment.
However, in today’s fast paced life, happiness is slowly turning into a goal. It is no more an experience.
Is happiness overrated?
Happiness or achieving happiness is slowly becoming a booming business for many individuals and even organizations. How many times have you come across advertisements like “Find out the secret to Happiness” or “101 ways to be happy”. Every third individual is turning into a happiness guru who is preaching multiple ways to achieve this omnipresent emotion.
However, in this marathon towards being happy, many people are actually facing the opposite effect. The constant struggle to be happy all the time is making people anxious instead. The social requirement of smiling 24*7 is causing stress and in some cases, even depression. Some of the newest evidence suggests that people who focus on living with a sense of purpose as they age are more likely to remain cognitively intact, have better mental health, and even live longer than people who focus on achieving feelings of happiness. In fact, in some cases, too much focus on feeling happy can actually lead to feeling less happy (Wang, 2011).
What can we do?
- Identify what does the word ‘happiness’ or ‘being happy’ means to you.
Is happiness getting a promotion at work or is it a major life event like getting married? Or is it small things like cooking daily or maybe working out? In the hustle-bustle of the 21st century, most of us have forgotten what happiness is. Identifying and writing down things, instances, people, actions, food items, experiences that make you feel happy can be the first step towards achieving a healthy sense of fulfillment and joy.
Wish to start journaling about what makes you happy? Click here to explore the various journals available at the MHT Store.
- Accept that happiness is a fleeting state, not a constant.
Happiness is not a medal that can be won or a prize that can be hung on the wall. Like any other emotion that we experience, happiness will also come and go. Trying to be happy all the time will just add to the stress you might experience in hoping to achieve that goal. In turn, you would also feel upset for not being able to be happy all the time! We have to accept that happiness is an emotion that can be experienced like many other emotions across our lifespan. A study by Anderson et al., (2011) concluded that valuing happiness could be self-defeating because the more people value happiness, the more likely they will feel disappointed.
The moment we start looking at happiness as a state to be experienced and not a goal to be achieved, happiness overrated might not be a problem anymore!
- Set realistic goals.
Most of the time, it is our own unreasonably high expectations that make us feel anxious, stressed and simply, not happy. Setting realistic goals for all things; from everyday chores to life goals, can help one experience actual happiness and also reduce the burden of high self-expectations.
- Build a support system around you.
Having a support system that genuinely values you can go a long way in not making happiness overrated but actually experiencing it just like any other emotion. Supportive friends, family, colleagues, pets, etc can actually help you feel happy. A study by Gulacti., (2010) found that perceptions of social support were responsible for 43% of a person’s level of happiness.
- Talk to a professional.
Wondering how to do all of the above? Talking to a professional can actually help! A therapist is trained to help you make realistic goals, look at the emotions objectively, and also help you come up with a plan of action to meet those goals.
Want help understand this emotion better and talk to a therapist? Visit the MHT Directory to find a therapist in your area who can help you with the same.
So, is happiness overrated or plainly misunderstood? I’ll let you be the judge of that!
References 1. Psychology Today 2. VeryWell Mind 3. Wall Street Journal 4. Talkspace