Happiness is a funny little thing. We're all capable of finding ways to feel happier. And we most certainly have the ability to make others happy. So why is it sometimes so hard to keep hold of? Well, I'm sure we can rattle off hundreds of reasons. Maybe your job sucks, or maybe you have no job. She just went through a horrible breakup, they just lost their house, and maybe he's sick.
More or less, those are all external factors. So yeah, the next time some guy comes up to you with a big goofy smile and tells you to just lighten up and be happy, your instinct might be to punch that grin off his face. Because who is he to tell you to be happy when everything sucks? But here's the thing — the dude with the goofy smile has a point. As easier as it may be said than done, happiness is in your control. And I'm not saying that when things just don't seem to be going right, you should be forcing yourself to feel ecstatic and start bouncing off the walls. Because that's also not really happiness. And as important as it is to be happy, it's just as important to feel all the other emotions.
So maybe it'll help to look at it a bit differently and redefine what you consider happiness, and the things you think you need to be happy. Here are seven signs that your happiness is dependent on the wrong things and it's time to do a little internal reflection.
1. It's Out Of Your Control
An increasing amount of studies have shown the large extent to which happiness is in our control. According to The Huffington Post, research in positive psychology has shown that happiness is a choice that anyone can make. They cited psychologist William James, who said that “the greatest discovery of any generation is that a human can alter his [or her] life by altering his [or her] attitude."Of course it's a pretty simple concept to grasp, but not the easiest to practice when it seems like your happiness is dependent on so many things out of your control. This is exactly why achieving that lasting happiness is all about that little shift in perspective.
2. It's Rare Or Unpredictable
Happiness shouldn't be some miraculous surprise that sneaks up on you. If feeling happy seems like something as rare as some astronomical phenomenon, it's definitely time to start rethinking why and what it is that constitutes your happiness. Because it shouldn't be something you wait around for, or only allow yourself to feel at certain times. Since research has already shown us that happiness is in our control, it's time to start taking advantage of those powerful, imaginative brains of ours to make the most of our emotions.
3. It Feels Like A Reward You Have To Earn
Everyone deserves happiness and it should never have to be something earned. By treating it like some sort of prize, you're setting limits on yourself and your own value. You're basically measuring how much positivity you're entitled to based on your personalized definition of "success." And that's just not valid. Win or lose, happiness is yours for the taking.
4. You Seek Empty Distractions
Don't get me wrong, I love me some oldschool Gameboy. And sometimes we really do need the mental break to just chill out and not think about anything. But when we start doing this to avoid feeling certain things and just fill up our time until something great happens, we're once again surrendering control of our own happiness. After all, we need to feel the full range of emotions for our mental well-being. As pointed out on Scientific American, attempting to suppress thoughts can backfire and even diminish our sense of contentment. And it especially sucks when we seek refuge in things that may not be all that great for us or things that take us away from facing some of the more important aspects of our lives.
5. You're Only Happy When Things Are Going Well
Of course it's awesome when it seems like the universe is on your side and things are just good. But it's important to keep a realistic perspective that this won't always be the case, and that's OK. Because we're all capable of feeling just the same if things don't exactly go our way or according to plan. As author of Stumbling On Happiness, Dan Gilbert, said on his TED Talk, we can actually synthesize happiness, but we think happiness is only a thing to be found.
What he goes on to explain is the distinction between "natural happiness" — happiness that results from getting what we want — and "synthetic happiness" — what we make when we don't get what we want. People don't seem to think that synthetic happiness is as real or enduring as that natural happiness you stumble upon when you get just what you want, but science proves that wrong. Gilbert shares some pretty neat experiments in which people ended up being just as happy getting the thing they didn't want in different situations.
6. You're Always Fast-Forwarding
You live for the weekends, for a trip to escape, or maybe for that next relationship that's supposed to bring you the happiness you deserve. Having this mindset pretty much guarantees the fleeting nature of your happiness. Revel in the little things and live for each moment. Practice being more present and more mindful. According to Lifehack, practicing mindfulness by accepting the present moment in a non-judgmental way can boost mood, reduce stress levels, and lead to a better quality of life. Your happiness will become so much more in your control because you can create it at any given time, rather than constantly chasing after the ambiguity of some just-out-of-your-reach future.
7. You "Can Only Be Happy If..."
He texts you back. You lose x amount of weight. You earn this amount of money. By attaching such constant variables to your state of happiness, you're once again tying down your potential for happiness. Gilbert also pointed out that we have a tendency to fall into something called the impact bias. This is when we think outcomes are more different than they actually are. Things like failing a test or breaking up with your partner have far less impact, duration, and intensity than we expect. Once again, this is because happiness can be synthesized, which goes back to the first point that happiness is totally within our control. Thanks to our trusty psychological immune system, we're able to change our views of the world so we feel better about the world in which we live.
Being happy is about you — no one and nothing else should affect it if it doesn't have to, right? Exactly.
Images: Giphy (7); Pexels