If we take a look at the human existence, we notice that through the years, one pattern is clear. We strive to maximize positive emotions and minimize negative ones. We seek out delicious food, good friendships/relationships, and fun activities, and sometimes we turn to drugs, alcohol, or medications to find happiness. We look for happiness but we often cannot explain what the word “happiness” even means to us.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with wanting to be happy. However, some unhealthy tendencies arise with our quest for happiness that tend to actually make us less happy!
The following are a few of these unhealthy tendencies:
- Fixating on the goal to “be happy” without clarifying what happiness means.
- Making happiness conditional with phrases like “I will be happy when…” or “I cannot be happy until…” This type of thinking treats happiness like a destination and neglects the journey.
- Having a definition of happiness imposed on us, such as media influences to look a certain way, own certain things, etc.
- Assuming that in order to have a “good” and “normal” life, one must be happy all the time. Truth is, human emotion is like the weather. There is no one “normal” emotion. What’s normal is having a wide range of emotions based on our situations.
- Turning to “quick fixes” for happiness, such as drugs, alcohol, or reckless behavior. These often cost us our happiness in the long run.
Have you caught yourself or witnessed someone fall into one or more of these thinking traps regarding happiness? Most of us can think of at least one time we noticed this type of thinking cause trouble and actually LOWER happiness for ourselves or others. Noticing these tendencies in retrospect and learning to catch them in the moment as they’re happening are part of the journey towards positive well-being.
Once you’ve noticed the patterns, then we can do the following:
- Define happiness for ourselves
- Treat happiness as a journey, not a destination
- Accept that a happy, positive life realistically still includes negative emotions and events. These are inescapable, but the way we interpret and react to them can still be positive.
In my next few posts, i will provide you with some tips on where to begin your (or your student’s, client’s, etc) journey of (not towards) positive well-being. As always, thanks for reading!