Are the following happiness myths preventing you from experiencing the lasting happiness you long for?
The desire to live a happy, fulfilling life is universal and transcends culture, race, and socioeconomic status. All of our decisions and actions in life are, on some level, informed by the belief they will make us happier, even if only momentarily.
Like inner peace, there are two types of happiness—happiness as a transient feeling which comes and goes, and the deep feeling of joy that is unchanging and ever-present in the depths of our being beyond the mind.
In the absence of this deep inner connection, most people are looking for happiness of the fleeting and impermanent type—through, wealth, success, relationships, adventure, pleasure etc.
Lasting happiness remains elusive because anything that brings us joy and satisfaction in one moment will inevitably bring the opposite in another and lead to frustration, disappointment and unhappiness.
In this article, I’d like to debunk some common happiness myths, and provide a few insights on how to cultivate sustainable happiness.
Happiness Myth #1 Happiness Can Be Found On the Outside
The myth “I will be happy when…” is a common myth that many people hold. It is the idea that happiness is a destination that can be reached at some point in the future, once certain conditions or goals have been met.
I’ll be happy when the kids leave home, when I find the right partner, when I get out of this toxic relationship, when I own a Mercedes Benz, when I have X amount in the bank…
None of these things bring lasting happiness because, even if they are achieved, we never remain satisfied for long. We then move on to the next condition on our list that we believe needs to be fulfilled before we can be happy.
Happiness always remains one step away, forever out of reach.
And, like happiness itself, all outer conditions are impermanent. The happy relationship that brings you so much joy in one moment can bring pain and suffering a few months or a few years later. With the passage of time, the satisfying and fulfilling job becomes dull and uninspiring. If economic conditions change, the successful business can go bankrupt or cryptocurrency rates can collapse.
In his book, Authentic Happiness, Dr Martin Seligman reveals that our outer circumstances account for only 10% of our happiness. The rest comes predominantly from our mindset and outlook on life. True happiness is an inner state, a way of being, and can only be experienced now, in this moment.
I go into this in much greater depth in Chapter 3 of my book “Awaken the Happy You.”
Happiness Myths #2 Happiness is the Absence of Negative Thoughts and Feelings
A lot of people think of happiness as a state of enjoyment or contentment—that happy people are always positive, always in a good mood and never feeling sad, lonely or dejected.
If this is your definition of happiness, then there’s no hope for lasting happiness because all feelings are fleeting. Every emotion, including happiness itself, comes and goes.
In meditation, we use the analogy of the sky and the passing clouds. Clouds of all shapes and sizes appear by themselves and pass across the sky— some dark, some light, some big, some small, slow moving or fast moving.
Experiencing negative thoughts, feelings and emotions is a natural and inescapable part of being human. They are self-arising and can’t be stopped. And they need not affect our happiness… unless we believe they do.
The truth is, we have little control over what happens, whether it be the situations we encounter in our lives or the thoughts, feelings and emotions that appear and pass through our awareness.
It’s unrealistic to think we can achieve happiness through becoming free of all negative, thoughts, feelings and emotions. It’s never going to happen.
Our level of happiness depends entirely on how we respond to the dark clouds that pass across the sky of our awareness.
If we try to deny, resist or suppress our emotions, we create unhappiness for ourselves.
For me, happiness isn’t about jumping up and down with joy, with a big grin on my face…. although, in moments, it can look that way.
It’s more of a quiet acceptance of whatever the inner weather brings moment to moment, and a recognition that there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with any of it. It’s the human condition, and no more.
And in the moments when I do freak out and react, I recognise that that’s the human condition too and try to be kind and compassionate towards myself.
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Happiness Myths #3 If I’m Unhappy There’s Something Wrong With Me
A lot of people who experience unhappiness or depression compound the issue through believing there’s something fundamentally wrong with them and beating themselves up for feeling what they are feeling.
This myth suggests that happiness is the only acceptable emotional state, and that any negative emotions are a sign of weakness or personal failure.
Feeling embarrassed, ashamed, or guilty about being unhappy adds fuel to the fire. It can cause people (especially men, who are more likely to have the cultural belief they should be strong and sorted) to shut down and not seek help or support.
In reality, it is perfectly normal and natural to experience the full range of emotions, including sadness and unhappiness. It DOESN’T mean there’s anything wrong with you.
In many ways, fear, sadness, depression and unhappiness are natural responses to the fear and uncertainty that is going on in the world right now.
We wouldn’t be human if we weren’t feeling some level of discomfort.
The 3 Myths of Happiness—In Conclusion
In conclusion, we have debunked three commonly held myths about happiness. Firstly, the myth that lasting happiness is a destination, a finishing line and that it can ever be found on the outside.
Secondly, the belief that we need to be free of all negative thoughts, feelings and emotions in order to be happy.
Positive and negative feelings are part and parcel of being human. They are an inescapable part of the human condition and, when embraced and accepted, need not affect your happiness.
When you fully expect them to be there, they’re not a problem.
And thirdly, there’s nothing wrong with you personally if you experience unhappiness. All feelings are fleeting and not who you are.
In closing, I’d like to add that, although any happiness (or unhappiness) you experience on the level of the mind will inevitably be temporary and fleeting, there is a vast wellspring of peace, joy and happiness within each and every one of us that is accessible through diving inside and experiencing the truth of who we are beyond the mind. On the level of the mind, happiness will always be fleeting. On the level of your true self, it is your true nature.
I’d be more than happy to be your guide if you feel the call to explore this. It’s what I’m good at!!
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