Happiness seems to be a goal for a lot people. Our society, in general, values a positive mindset and doing a bazillion things to get there like mindfulness, meditation, yoga, vegan food, paleo food, religion, secularism…it’s a constant battle between differing ideologies that are selling the same thing. Happiness. Being okay with your own self and body. Of course, even money is being sold as, or at least the means to get, happiness. If you’re reading this blog, you are probably already aware of these things. But whatever the label, many of us have unconsciously become convinced that if we could just, be, HAPPY everything would be okay. Because we think that we can hold onto our feelings and emotions, because that’s what happiness is, a feeling or emotion, and that if we’re good enough we can make that inherently temporal thing last.
What’s really going on here? Why haven’t we figured out that we are meant to experience all emotions, not be limited and so blindingly focused on this singular aspect of ourselves? It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to be angry, guilty, disappointed, and all the others. Emotions tell us that we care about something, that it’s important to us on a more-than-superficial level.
Our society gives us a list of accomplishments that we need to complete to be happy and successful. Generally something along the lines of going to a good university, getting a well-paying job, finding a life partner and restarting the process with our own children. However, in the process of achieving them, because we train ourselves not to stop, not to waver in our pursuit of these goals, we do not find happiness. Instead, we have learned to never be satisfied, how to value people based on how close they get to those accomplishments, and how worthy we are depending on our dedication to these goals.
Happiness, in my life, has been a choice, an attitude, a state of mind. A separate state from the emotion of “being happy.” It’s a state where you are okay with yourself. This is probably more accurate to what many of us search for. We just want to know and feel and believe our lives and ourselves are okay. For many, it is SO much harder of a place to get to. Many bravely face mental health challenges every day and, hell, even normal day life with or without chemical mishaps can be utterly overwhelming. The pressures of life are hard. Attitude or state of mind is a simple and straightforward concept, but certainly not easy to embody.
Existence alone is enough of a prerequisite to be happy. Did you hear that? You have every right to be happy. (You also have every right to feel every other emotion possible.) The “happy” emotion is already within us. It’s one aspect of our many sides, one emotion of many. Remove the social baggage that tells us we are not enough.
To take a rather anachronistic example from Eastern thought, we don’t look at plants and animals, say a bird in the sky, and ask, “Geez, why doesn’t it have its shit together? All those other birds have already made nests and caught bugs, what a loser!” No! We say, “Aww, how nice it is to see a bird, hear its song, and watch it fly. It’s soooo cute!” Why do we expect human beings to be any different? We do not compare between animals, even of the same species, so why must we put that pressure on our own selves?
We place such high expectations on ourselves and judge others based on arbitrary standards of a flawed society and culture (here I speak predominantly of my own, Western American culture, but no society is perfect so this statement still applies to others). We play a game with rules, but don’t acknowledge that there are any. By not acknowledging that a culture’s rules are largely manipulated by previous generations, we pretend like the rules and this one specific game is all that there is to life. Maybe happiness is about removing obstacles, rather than getting somewhere to find “your happy place.” One of the obstacles being arbitrary standards of accomplishment. The elusive happiness bug and what I’ve described above to find it is just one (mine) very subjective and personal account. So take it with a grain of salt, because we all have to find our own.