Advice

Happy is not enough

We’re constantly bombarded with the idea of being happy.

“Smile. ‘Cmon. Be happy!”

Happy. Happy. Happy. We’ve been taught and told that a good life is a happy life, yet it seems like a never-ending struggle to hold onto it. Why?

Because happiness is fleeting. It’s temporary. The feeling when you complete a boss fight, meet a celebrity, or buy a new pair of shoes: in that moment, you’re radiating with joy. You. Are. Happy. Then, the smile fades away. You’re even — dare I say — disappointed. You need to play another game, seek the next thrill, or go back to the mall to get yet another pair of shoes you don’t need.

First of all, it’s important to know what’s going on in your body. When you experience happiness, your brain pumps out a wombo-combo of neurochemicals like dopamine, oxytocin, seratonin, and endorphins. Then, like smoke in the sky, it gets carried away by the wind — that residual feeling of happiness fades away — the high is gone.

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Secondly, this brings us to the next important point: don’t make “happy” your goal. It’s an unrealistic unsustainable state of emotion. It’s short-lived because — let’s be honest — it doesn’t take much effort to feel that high. Go shopping, win a game, makeout with a stranger — you’ll receive a rush-order delivery of happy. But a lasting deep-seated joy: that takes effort.

We’re not taught enough that you have to work for it. It takes time and energy and cognition. Now, don’t get me wrong, those temporary happy-highs are important and a wonderful addition to our lives — they’re like little markers that we’re on the right track and it’s okay to seek them often. But don’t let it be your focus.

Instead:

  1. Be real: we’re not robots — we’re meant to have a range of emotions and seeking a constant state of happiness is unrealistic. So, if you’re not riding that happy train, remember that it’s okay not to be okay. You’re not broken.
  2. Be grateful: nothing keeps you going like a slice of humble pie and the practice of gratitude for what you’ve got. Start with the basics — be grateful for the air in your lungs, the eyesight to read this, the ability to log onto internet, clean water, leisure time, etc. We take so much for granted if we don’t consciously exercise gratitude.
  3. Seek a path of fulfillment: it’s important to understand that you won’t get the sweet taste of satisfaction easily, but the journey to find purpose in your life as opposed to short-term feelings of happiness is worth the effort. I’m constantly evolving what “fulfillment” means to me — it’s a long-term life-long commitment, I’m not nearly close to the end, and seeking this gives me great joy.

I’d love to know your insight and experiences with seeking happiness. This is but a short (and by no means a complete) list of  ways to be on the right path. Let’s discuss — leave your thoughts in the comments!

Further reading: I found this article on “Hacking Into Your Happy Chemicals” to be intriguing.

17 comments

  1. Hey mary, yet again a super usefull post. I do struggle a lot with happiness, and often i find myself not finding any happiness in my life, as well as any accomplishments or projects or not knowing wat i want. Then theese little , temporary happyness happen and i distract myself from what i am feeling.
    I don’t know what i should do, i totally agree that temporary happiness is not that good, but that seems the only kind of happiness i can achieve. Hopefully i will understand what my path is and eventually be able to become truly happy.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I believe in happiness not being your all time goal because if you feel like you should be happy all the time it causes you stress leading to you taking your happiness and that’s the worst thing to do. You should just go with the flow

    Liked by 3 people

  3. It’s all depends on yourself, how to live life to the fullest. Just be yourself and be honest about your own. Happiness might not be enough, but it’s all depends make your family and friends to be happy and safe. I going to tell what my dad told as a kid. “If you believe, you can achieve .

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Happines is just a state of mind. It can’t be the goal if a life.

    I graduated this March in psychology and neuropsychology, I have the fortune to study, psychological and neuro anatomically speaking, what it mean to feel happy.

    My studies opened my mind. Like you have said every emotions is the conscious elaborations of a chemical reaction in our brain. This means that it can’t last for long, if you are lucky is a meaner of hours, but you have to be very lucky.

    So how can I base my life on something that would disappear after a so short time? I simply can’t.

    This insight brought me to a simple conclusion. You can’t leave following the research of a full life of arousal. You will be drive crazy.

    So I came to a result not dissimilar to your Mari. You have just to life what came in front of you, enjoy that emotion, that experience, feel it like it is the first time every time, and then, after you have internalize that, move on, to the next step on the path.

    I have came to this not analyzing the emotion of joy, but the anger that is inside of me. I have had anger’s problems, and the only way I found for…survive to them is this. Take a very long breath, clousing my eyes, think about what it could be if I leave this emotion overtake me and then breath out, open my eyes and reset it over.

    Anger can take you away from the path and that’s not ok, so I choose my way to maintain my eyes on the road, and moving on.

    You have to find the right balance about emotion and logic, empathy and analysis, joy and sadness, anger and altruisms…it is all about balance.

    I hope that what I have wrote it is understandable, and I hope that everything is ok for you and Peter.

    Bye and thanks from your friendly Italian follower✌

    G OUT😎

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  5. I think happiness stems from fulfillment as I see the elation stems from our subjective differences on what makes us genuinely happy. On the short term those little highs don’t bring fulfillment and why so typically as Littlefinger would say, “as soon as we get what we want, we don’t want it any more.”

    Strive for fulfillment. As fulfillment is not synonymous with success. No one can tell you you’re happy just as no one can tell you you’re in love. You just know you are. So strive, work and sacrifice for it. And build your character and resolve to be beyond shortsightedness and embrace the good with the bad. To make it to “The next marker” as you put it and enjoy in gratitude this journey and glimpse of the world and universe you’ve been afforded by time.

    Cheers 😊

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  6. Hey Mari,
    I believe happiness comes from completion. Whether it is a simple daily chore or something more, seeing our efforts end up in viewable results or intangible feelings is something that provides us with daily short bursts of happiness. Yet completion of longer projects is what leads to joy. It’s like that one epic project that you created as a kid (remembering that in itself brings joy). Honestly that’s how I feel when I complete a blog post on my own blog (https://systematicdestination.blogspot.ca/ if you want to check it out :)) More or less that’s my opinion on happiness (probably different from everyone else) 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  7. This topic resonates deeply with me. I’ve dealt with many mental health issues in my life, and as a result felt like I was never happy enough. One of my therapists taught me that living an emotionally healthy life is to have a baseline emotional state. Most people have a baseline around an 80 on a scale of 0-100, 100 being the most happy. To be at 100 all the time is impossible to maintain, because ultimately the intensity of the emotion will drain the person. For me, my baseline may be lower, and that’s why happiness can be harder to achieve. I’ve worked my ass off to accept this fact, and seeing people who have your type of visibility validate it is incredibly rewarding. Thank you for this post, this blog, and your ongoing positive presence.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I believe that feeling happy and finding happiness are completely different things, and they’re not necessarily related to each other. For me, happiness is being at peace with yourself and the world around you. Yes, you can feel sad, angry, disappointed, whatever emotion there is, and still feel happiness. All emotions are equally important to us, and even though we label some of them as “negative” emotions, they exist as a way for us to express ourselves to others and to help us understand ourselves.

    In my language, we have more words and meanings for the English word “happy”, so it’s hard to explain my thoughts. If I were to summarize it I’d say that being happy as in having found happiness is not about having a constant smile on your face, but to not let your “negative” emotions bring you down too far while still allowing yourself to be feeling the full force of them. Feeling happy is just one of the many emotions we feel every day, but reaching happiness and being content with your current situation is a mindset worth striving for.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Every time you post something, it’s exactly what I need at the moment. Mari, you inspire me so deeply. I struggle with the constant “Be happy!” and “Smile!” people tell me all the time. Life is so much more than that. It is anger and happiness and sadness and grief and joy and love and rage and every emotion you can feel. You are such a good human and someday I hope I’m half as good as you. Thank you, Mari.

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  10. This is a tough one as I am not happy in this moment. For me it’s something I gain from understanding. Understanding other’s, how something works or myself enough to help improve whatever it is makes me happy. I’m learning this year that presence in the moment alleviates the desire to chase the next “happy” thing as you become more grateful for what is in front of you.

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  11. I don’t really know what to write here, bacause I’m still struggling with finding a way to get that sense of joy from life. I traveled for awhile, and I loved that, but you’re absolutely right, after it was done and I was back home I felt almost empty. I’m getting a bit better while studying, but I don’t know what I really want to do, or what will give me that sense of joy. I’m still working hard to find myself and what makes me happy, but I agree with your insights on the matter, especially number one. And the reason I’m highlighting that one is because it’s such a common statement for people who “shouldn’t be sad”. So many times someone shows emotion and told to smile more or to be happy instead, but all emotions are important, and repressing isn’t going to help anyone. Sometimes a good cry is what you need, or to scream into a pillow. Everyone deserves to have respect shown for their own feelings. So I guess that’s all I have to offer to this? Don’t let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t feel certain emotions. If you’re happy then that’s great! If you’re sad then that is not great, but you shouldn’t have to feel the need to hide your sadness from the world. The people around you should help with whatever you’re feeling… I feel like I got really off topic, I’m sorry about that. I guess to sum up is that family and friends can be a key part of finding happiness, as long they are healthy towards yourself and your feelings. It was great seeing another post from you, I find all of your insights really helpful, so thank you for sharing them with us! Sorry for ranting a bit

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  12. I am taking a social work seminar at college right now, when I joined the class I wasn’t too keen on the idea of it, I am a journalism major, nothing to do with social work – to put it simply I was not exactly excited when I found out I had to take this class. However, now that I am three months into the seminar, I am grateful for having to take it. We talk of role models and preach of self care. Like you say, self care isn’t necessarily doing everything you can to be “happy,” it is doing everything you can to be a person, to be strictly you. Caring for yourself isn’t necessarily buying yourself a new pair of shoes or going out to a nice dinner, sometimes it is just going to bed at a decent hour or sitting in and watching your favorite TV show. “Happiness” isn’t the thing to strive for, self care is the thing which will get you close enough to this unattainable feeling of absolute happiness. Simply making sure that you get exercise, sunlight, eating right; simple yet effective things are what truly matter.
    Loving these blogposts Mari 🙂 keep ’em coming ❤

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  13. I find that I find happiness when watching YouTube or talking to my friends on Twitter. I was happy in the relationship I was in a little over a month ago, it pulled me out of a dark spot I was in, but since the end of that relationship, I find my happiness in YouTube and my Twitter friends. Like other people stated, happiness is just a high we get when we are satisfied, so to speak, with something that made us happy. I would love to find another person to make me happy, respect me for me, etc, but sometimes I don’t think I will find that one person to make me happy all the time, which puts me in that dark spot which is sometimes hard to get out of. I am “happy” with my life, but I would love to be able to find that one source of happiness to keep me happy constantly.

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  14. Your comment about fulfillment really resonates. I’ve found that the temporary lows in life are easier to confront and overcome when I recognize that I am working towards an ultimate vision that provides me with a sense of fulfillment. Until not too long ago, I was convinced that making a large sum of money would motivate and drive me to be “successful”… but certain aspirations, as I am sure many people here are already aware, will only take you so far in the face of true adversity. Finding a larger purpose in my life has offered me a second wind.. and I can’t wait to see how far I can go now.

    Looking forward to more of your posts, Mari 🙂

    -P

    Liked by 2 people

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