In The Pursuit of Happiness...
I have noticed a trend on social media for promoting a ‘positivity only mindset’ to achieve happiness. The posts often include scene of nature or a positive quote in an attractive type font and are punctuated with captions including hashtags such as #goodvibesonly and #behappy. For me these captions and this mindset discounts the wide range of human emotions we are supposed to experience. Sometimes (often) I read these posts and wonder if people actually mean happiness?
I think people confuse happiness with excitement, fun and emotional highs. States of being that are not sustainable, moments that are fleeting. Can you imagine being excited, emotionally high or having fun all the time? You’d be knackered . Cultivating a grounding sense of contentment that brings a general sense of happiness is different, it is long term and requires intentional work to sustain. If you are able to maintain this almost underlying sense of contentment you will not adopt the facial features of a Cheshire Cat, however you will create a stable base to return to after reaching lofty heights, peak enjoyment or gloomy lows (unless you are experiencing mental ill health).
If we are always chasing highs 'normal' may be mistaken for low and peace can become chaos. Stillness could be mistaken for boredom rather than a valuable state of being or a situation you can alter with small actions.
The notion of good vibes only and positive mindset can seem disingenuous because a) human emotions are varied and b) the implication is that uncomfortable human feelings should be ignored or 'pushed through'. Whilst I do not endorse self pity or wallowing, life is not all unicorns and hearts eyes. Sometimes you have to sit in the discomfort address the shit and then take steps to work through it. The steps could be starting with making your bed each day or doing and Aunty Maxine Walters and telling someone you are reclaiming your time... it could even be saying no to your child trying to invite a friend round at school pick up time. It could also be talking to a therapist.
Life is light, dark and all shades in between, we need to experience this, it makes us human. Invariably our best learning comes from challenges. Babies don't stop trying to walk because they fall down. Falling and feeling pain at times is a necessary part of learning to walk.... If you don't learn how to deal with your shadows or the shit life conjures up how do you develop the skills to manage life?
Darkness is part of us it makes us whole and ignoring it does not make it disappear. Avoidance just hides issues creating space for difficulty to manifest as ailments, envy, misplaced angst and chasing highs so that we can be 'happy', but sometimes only way out is through.
As we embark on a new week I would like you think about what happiness means to you and what you can do to cultivate a genuine feeling of contentment, the long lasting happiness which will put you in good stead to manage lows and not be distracted by ego fuelling highs.