Why Can’t You Just Be Happy?
There’s nothing really wrong. Things are mostly going pretty well. So why can’t you just… be happy?
Seriously, it’s not that hard.
Except… it is. Just “being happy” turns out to be a lot more complicated than it sounds. For starters, some people’s brains just don’t naturally cooperate with society’s expectations of happiness, because of depression or anxiety. For other people, we anticipate we’ll be happy when we reach a certain goal, or have a certain experience, but it doesn’t happen automatically.
Admit It: The Holidays Sometimes Stink
For a perfect example, just look at the holidays. This time of year, we’re expected to be happy. We should either be basking peacefully in the glow of the reason for the season, or bouncing joyfully between friends and parties and glitter-covered wrapping paper. But what we get instead is stress, overwhelm, and disappointment.
See, expectations of happiness often ruin actual happiness. If we feel like happiness is REQUIRED, or else we must be broken, we put so much pressure on ourselves that happiness becomes nearly impossible. Who can be happy on demand? Probably not you.
Who Needs Happiness, Anyway?
In fact, studies have shown that the things that make us ACTUALLY happy are pretty hard to predict. Happiness doesn’t always come from the things we think it comes from, because a greater sense of overall joy in life comes from feelings like “meaning” and “significance.” Happiness and meaning are similar, but different, according to research out of Stanford. If you’re looking for happiness that’s longer-lasting, go for meaning, not contentedness.
But I Just Want A Little Joy
Just because it’s not so easy, that doesn’t mean you should give up on being happy. It just means you won’t find it in any of the presents under the Christmas tree. For a deeper, longer-lasting happy, try these strategies:
- Don’t Do So Much. We’re so convinced that activities and experiences are going to make us happy that we cram our lives full and end up stressed out and miserable. Instead, focus on what matters most. For a way to fit more into your life without feeling MORE stressed, you can download my free Time Targeter, a tool for helping you figure out where you ought to be spending your time for maximum life satisfaction and success.
- But DO Do Something For Someone Else. It’s the giving time of year, after all! When we give back to other people, we get a boost in so many of the elements that factor into happiness, like connections to other people and a boost in our own personal sense of power and accomplishment. Helping someone else is also one of the best possible ways to make life feel meaningful (which you now know is more important than plain happiness, anyway!)
Don’t let happiness and the actions that bring true happiness end up buried at the bottom of your to do list in your busy life. Find what matters most and bring some meaning to your days.