Stop Seeking Happiness!
We’ve all heard it. We’ve said it. We’ve searched for it.
We’ve all thought our lives will instantly approve once we’re happy. We’ve all imagined ourselves completely content at some distant point in the future. We’ve all desperately longed to be one of those people who is in a perpetual state of ecstasy, bouncing off the walls, and smiling ear to ear because we are so freak’in HAPPY!
I’ve learned something very important recently… you are NEVER going to be happy.
Happiness is not a permanent, finite, or fixed state. Sure one may argue that happiness is a matter of choice – anyone can decide to see a situation as either a half full or a half empty cup.
But striving for a STATE of happiness is different from seeking happy FEELINGS.
Happiness is an emotion and it is as dynamic and transient as the waves of an ocean. Just as the tides come in and out, the feeling of happiness enter and leave. While we can say a person is happy, in actuality, they simply have happiness at that moment. Or they exude positivity based on multiple happy feelings across a number of moments (hours, days, years).
While there is nothing wrong with striving to feel ‘happy’ – this quest comes with a double-edge sword.
The reason we should stop seeking happiness is because it is like trying to catch a slippery fish with bare hands. You may find it, catch it, and hold onto it momentarily; but that fish will eventually wriggle it’s way out of your palms and only lead to disappointment when you’ve allowed it to slip away. When we only want to BE happy, it’s easy to feel lousy when we don’t.
I think people often feel guilt when they think they should be happy, yet feel miserable. “I SHOULD be feeling happy right now and I don’t.” Have you ever been on an amazing vacation, out at a beautiful restaurant, or hanging with someone awesome and your head tells you that you SHOULD be happy in this moment? For whatever reason, instead you feel sad, hurt, or angry. Then frustration bubbles up because you recognize your non-happy state and begin to feel even more like crap.
Happiness also becomes a conceptualized and even fantasized ‘future’ state. “One day, I’ll be happy.” Or “All I want for their future is for them to be happy.” Believing that a permanent state of happiness is achievable, only makes one live in a hypothetical future context and an impossible and unattainable goal is created.
So what happens when we fail to reach our goals? We get fucking UNHAPPY!
Striving for happiness will not lead to happiness. Instead, we should aim for ACCEPTANCE.
Acceptance is an accessible, constant state of being. It is not defined by temperamental emotions, erratic moods, or changing external factors. Acceptance is respecting and honouring EVERY single thought and feeling – positive and negative.
When you accept, you bask in the bliss of happiness, but do not become attached to it. You understand you cannot feel like this forever, nor do you strive for it. When you accept, you honour the fact that you feel sadness or pain. You understand that you are a complex human. You know everything is a mere feeling that will pass.
I believe this quest for ‘happiness’ is deeply rooted and entrenched in societal beliefs. We’ve created a universal and ultimate goal; “to be happy”. The media, marketing strategies, and large corporations play into this desire and make us believe that once we achieve a certain lifestyle, obtain the ideal body shape, find the perfect mate, or purchase a material item – we will be happy. Of course these things may give us temporary happiness, but we usually feel disappointed when these feelings of happiness ultimately subside.
But happiness is SUPPOSED to subside! It’s natural! Everything is cyclical. No human on earth can be in a continuous state of happiness. We are complex beings with intricate lives and were designed to feel a plethora of emotions. These feelings enter the front door with a bang and quietly exit when the next emotion comes knocking.
Do not search for or cling to a single, fleeting feeling. Happiness will come and happiness will go.
When we simply learn to accept that there will be days when we feel utterly depressed, lost, confused, upset, angry and EMBRACE those times… then it’s not happiness we’re after, it’s acceptance. You can say, “I accept that I am currently feeling on Cloud 9.” Or you can understand that, “I feel super shitty today. I’m cranky and sad and just want to be alone.” In both cases, you know it’s a feeling and it will eventually change.
Acceptance is concrete and attainable.
Find a way to accept whatever experiences and emotions you go through. Do your best not to live under the guise that “Once such and such happens… I will be FULLY happy.” Of course there is room for ambition, goals, dreams, and self improvement… but we should never equate reaching or fulfilling those achievements with an everlasting state of happiness. Accept everything in its present state.
Accept your current financial situation. Accept when you feel giddy about getting a message from a love interest. Accept your current role and job duties. Accept when you feel hurt or betrayed by your partner. Accept when you feel excited to see your friend. Accept when you are nervous or anxious. Accept when you are fucking ecstatic!!!
When you fully accept whatever emotion or state you are going through… then you fully accept who you are.
What is particularly interesting… is that the MORE accepting you are of yourself and your current state, the more likely you are to experience feelings of HAPPINESS! When you accept whatever you are feeling, then there is no need to wish you felt different or hope that one day in the future, you will not feel differently. It will be easier for you to break through bouts of sadness when you lovingly accept the down times. When you feel disappointed, embarrassed, grief, or shame… the BEST medicine is the gentle voice that tells you it is a momentary feeling and not who you are.
Happiness ultimately emerges through the act of acceptance.