On the rise of happiness

Happy people are more successful: they live longer lives, lose weight faster, have steadier relationships and on and on and on… oh and they have prettier pictures on Instagram. Sigh.

Are you happy? Just the thought of that question could be the beginning of a downward spiral: “Wait, why am I not happy? Why am I not happy that I am not happy? Why do I catch myself every time in this unhappy state? Maybe I’m depressed. I just want to be happy”.

In fact, what exactly is happiness? No, not the definition of happiness by others but happiness to you. Who gets to define it and why. Why do almost all self-help books and productivity blogs, and countless tips on Quora end with “be happy”?

The challenge with this happiness story is the propagation of the idea of a never-broken happiness streak — you must always be happy no matter what, no matter when. Truth is there’s nothing like continuous happiness. In fact, it is against the core of being human. If you are always happy then it means no room for unhappiness which invariably means we cannot empathize with others in sorrow. Yet, empathy is what makes us human.

Experiencing different emotions–both positive or negative in high or low magnitude–is what defines life. Otherwise, how can you enjoy the fullness of a happy state if you’ve never experienced any unhappy moment. The experience of an unhappy state is what makes one appreciate the delta of any happiness when it occurs.

So yes, be happy AND don’t obsess when you are not because there’s no such thing as perpetual happiness. If somehow you catch yourself thinking “why am I unhappy”, “why am I unhappy that I’m unhappy” then immediately add “screw it, I’m good” and move on with your life. There’s no best happiness state. There’s just you, your struggles and your attempt at understanding the world. Move on.


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