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Friday, April 28, 2017

Overly Happy

Posted by Tim Stobbs on February 11, 2016

Given the amount I talk about happiness on this blog, you might assume I live a charmed life with a constant smile on my face but that isn’t true.  In fact, when you consider happiness from a evolutionary point of view being constantly stung out in a good mood would likely ensure your species didn’t survive.  After all without fear or worry, your offspring might be lunch for something else which is hardly productive to a species long term survival.

In reality, my life is fairly good most of the time, but it also has its ups and downs just like yours. For example, last year I had a bit of a down period of a few months where I was just utter disengaged from my work.  I didn’t care about my work at all and really didn’t want to be there.  Being in that frame of mind for too long started to eat into the rest of my life and the end result was obvious: I wasn’t that happy for a few months.  Not full on depressed, but definitely down.

Yet shouldn’t I be happy with my life?  Well people might consider my answer should be yes, but you also have to consider that  the constant pressure from everywhere to be happier and improve yourself.  This isn’t to say I don’t like some degree of self improvement, but with happiness our culture seem bloody well obsessed with it.  Don’t believe, do a Google search for ‘happy’…I got 2.4 billion results.  Or if you want to refine things a bit search “how to be happy” and you will get 639 million results.  Given the amount of research, books and other media on the topic we should all be walking around with a permanent smile on our faces. Yet we still aren’t happy all the time.

So what’s the problem? Well basically we can’t stop feeling the negative emotions in life.  We still feel fear, greed, envy, and yes even the dreaded sad emotion.  But that is actually a good thing. The fact of the matter is your negative emotions are there and they do serve a purpose.  You actually need them to help define the other positive emotions like happiness.  It’s like trying to define zero without the one in binary or vice versa.

We aren’t meant to be happy all the time, so it is okay to stop trying to feeling happy constantly.  It’s like we all got addicted to being happy and we all collectively on the constant search for a our next high from it.  Yet that kind of thinking can be dangerous to your long term well being.  For example, as you can start to overeat to feel better, watch too much TV to feel better and then over time feel bad that you got fat and don’t do anything in you life but work and watch TV.  Your quest for happiness ended up with you being unhappy because you didn’t consider the long term cost of being too happy.

In the end, you should adjust what you are doing in your life when you do get down for a period of time.  That is a healthy thing to try, but we shouldn’t be a constantly evolving trying to get just a few more minutes of each day of being happy.  Oh, I got 49 minutes of happiness at work today, that was better than 45 last week. That isn’t healthy, so my advice is find that point where you have enough happiness in your life.  That you generally feel fairly good about the world, but still have your bad days too and then stop trying to be happier. Life is meant to be lived, so don’t spend it overly trying to improve something that is already just fine the way it is.

So do you feel pressured to be happier in your life? If so, how do you deal with it?