What’s Trending? #Happiness

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  • 12 Habits of Happy People
  • 10 Steps to Finding Happiness
  • 8 Foods That Boost Your Happiness
  • Unlocking The Mysteries of Happiness
  • 5 Secrets to Find Happiness
  • 13 Things Destroying Your Happiness

The latest fad is indeed Happiness! We’re all made to believe that we’re supposed to be happy at all times otherwise there is something wrong with us.   The above are examples of  titles that get a lot of hits as everyone wants to reach destination Happiness. When you read these articles they all decode into one simple equation:

Living Good = Feeling Good (aka Happy)

The difference in these articles is  in how they define elements of a good living. Some emphasize self care, others solicit helping others, eating good, sleeping good, eliminating stress, thinking of good things and the to-do lists go on and on.

These writings  will gain hundreds of thousands of readers, but won’t make anyone happier because:

1.   Happiness is a feeling, not a destination

2.   Happiness is a naturally occurring effervescence resulting from experiences perceived by an individual as being positive

3.  It is not normal to always be happy

4.  Unpleasant emotions are a normal part of the human experience.

5.  Sometimes if you have not lived well in the past, even if you live well now, you do not feel well

6.  There is no such thing as “Happy People”, instead, there are those that seem report or look like they experience this emotion more than others.

Accessing one’s capacity to experience genuine happy emotions occurs through working through negative experiences that make you unhappy. If one’s room is dirty it will not suffice to repeat to yourself 1001 times that it is clean and lovely, nor will it help to simply think that it is clean and so it will be clean (fake it till you make it). One needs to be able to clean up all that is in the way of it becoming clean. Further, cleaning up is often a dirty process involving exposure to a lot of unpleasant things, yet it’s done in order to attain the desired outcome with the awareness that it will need to be repeated again and again and again! Like cleanliness, happiness is what can naturally be experienced when one removes the unpleasant. As Freud ascertained  “What we call happiness in the strictest sense comes from the (preferably sudden) satisfaction of needs which have been dammed up to a high degree”. In an attempt to “stay happy” a lot of people will avoid dealing with what needs to be addressed in their relationships at home or work. They convince themselves that they don’t want anything to ruin their mood, but what’s happening is that they are not sorting out what needs to be sorted and at the end, their “happiness”  erodes into nothing more than a facade.

facemask So much effort is put into shining the mask of alleged happiness through social media as happiness now is something that is now boasted even when it doesn’t truly exist. It has grown very common that individuals post seemingly happy posts to at least appear happy. Although they may not be happy, the idea that their rivals think that they are happy creates a little bit of satisfaction and unlocks a little bit of happiness.  It’s also not uncommon to find a couple on the verge of divorce taking a “happy” selfie to show an audience of alleged “haters” that they are happier than they’ve ever been only to divorce 3 weeks later. A number of studies have shown the effect of looking through Facebook and how unhappy it can make individuals.

Through social media, even our concept of happiness is comparative. Because although you may have had a lovely dinner at your local sushi joint with your spouse, Jane and Joe’s post of themselves in Bali suddenly erodes you of your happiness and you suddenly feel bad about your life. Happiness has turned into a competition with happ-iest being the winner and not-happy-enough being the ultimate loser.  #Happiness is one of the most common hashtags assigned to pictures of burgers, ice cream, hand bags, shoes, and so many other things. Before devouring a meal, it’s now common to now take a picture of it as the social hunger too often supersedes physical hunger.  By assigning #happiness to consumables depicted in pictures taken to show to some people you know but more people you don’t know, true happiness seems more fleeting than ever!

Happiness is an incredibly powerful emotion that can prove an amazing force in one’s life, yet shallow representations of it have stripped it down to an attention seeking hyperactive mirage. The frightening phenomenon is that even brides are now so consumed with capturing the image happiness in their wedding pictures that will be broadcast to their real and virtual audiences under #JoeandJanesWeddding.  It is not uncommon to find a groom trying to chat with his bride only for her to ignore him while posing with her million dollar smile that she practiced in front of the mirror for weeks.  The tragedy is that if happiness is attained through lived experiences, how can one be happy when the supposed experiences are no more than happy poses?

On a daily basis clients walk into my office feeling miserable or triumphant over how happy or unhappy they found their ex’s or arch enemies to be on social media.  Each tries to claim victory over who won the break up only to realize that although one may have won one virtual battle, the “war” over who is happier has yet to be won.

Within each person is a natural desire to avoid pain and to experience pleasure and so there is a natural drive within each one of us to be happy.  When one is most unhappy and feeling obsessed with trying to see how their happiness compares to their rivals, it is essential to turn off your data/Wifi and reconnect with one’s self once again.   There are no magic tricks, foods, clothes, people, habits, or any other quick fix that will render you happy at all times.  Courageously working through resolving what grieves you, scares you, haunts you, hurts you, and stresses you will result in you harvesting the sweet fruit of your happiness; and when you attain it, you will not need to share it with anyone to know that it’s real!

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About the author

Iraqi-American Clinical Psychologist from Minneapolis Minnesota currently in private practice in Dubai, UAE.