If you were to walk through my door today, I’d only welcome you with a question: Are you happy? I’m no Dr. Phil, it’s not so much as to check on your well-being (well, not completely), it is mostly to comprehend how happiness became the most important thing ever. Personally, I’ve come to a conclusion. Happiness is overrated and way too popular. Happiness is that jock in high school that everybody crushes on, but no one knows how to talk to. I can put a million researches here explaining how it all works: the biology, physiology, and all of the rest. But, why are we so attracted to the concept? What is this constant desire to be happy? And, pressure!
Several aspects of our lives revolve around trying to be happy, wanting to be happy. God! take a shot every time you read happy. Or maybe do that every time you see a sunny post on Instagram giving you lessons on how to be more joyous. Believe you me, you’re about to be very intoxicated. We’re now living in a world where even several social media platforms have changed their algorithm so as to promote a more positive content. We’ve all, in a way, turned into Sisyphus, continuously pushing for joy and happiness, but in return only to find it rolling back on nearing the top. This push seems like it’s going to last us a lifetime, and the irony is not lost on any of us. Out of all the ‘feels’ one could feel- why stick to one and work for it so hard that we forget to feel the rest of the lot?
Ever heard of ‘struggle porn’? It has been trending in the business world for a long time- it alludes to how romanticised entrepreneurs make struggle out to be. Well, I think, what we have in our hands is- ‘happiness porn’. I’m not here to tell you that feeling good is bad—friend, feeling good is always great, but by putting this impractical expectation on oneself we are actually hurting our manifesting powers more than we are helping them. This constant need to feel a certain way restricts our way to ascertain what we’re feeling all together.
We’re almost, in most ways, taught to judge our feelings as wrong. There are negative feelings and positive ones, but right or wrong? I don’t think so. It’s like being in a battle with yourself, which is causing resistance, which is really the only obstacle that stands between you and the realisation of your feelings. Therefore, feeling bad is not the problem, feeling bad about feeling bad definitely is. Quite an inception. One distinction I have to make is that the opposite of happiness is not sadness, it couldn’t be. Its apathy. It is the opposite of every feeling- not feeling.
Feeling good is good, this is a belief that is so intuitive to be almost axiomatic, and there is now substantial data to support it. Yet, most of us do know that perpetual joy is not a practical goal. Recent research is actually starting to suggest that it may actually be a harmful one.
Bodenhausen and Kramer (pretty credible names, wouldn’t you say?) stated that “happiness is a kind of a safety signal, indicating that there is no current need for problem solving…..Unhappy people will think more deeply about their social environment (in an effort to solve their problems), whereas happy people can contentedly coast on cruise control, not bothering to think very deeply about surrounding events unless they impinge directly on their well-being”—basically suggesting you’re better off solving things when you’re not obliterated with absolute joy. Serious focus may not be pleasant, but it may be the optimal mood for certain tasks.
Another thing that might be troubling? People who are in a good mood are more likely to jump to conclusions about others and less likely to consciously correct any stereotypical notions they harbour. There you go people, want to be in 2020 still harbouring stereotypes? In a 2008 study, nearly 120 students were induced to feel amused, neutral, or sad (by watching a comedy video, a nature documentary, or a film clip about cancer). Then, they watched interrogation videos where other students lied or told the truth about stealing a movie ticket (yeah, they were very thorough). It was seen that the negative-mood group was better at detecting deception than the neutral or positive groups, correctly identifying the liars more often. So, you better keep your Kanye West on when trying to check if people are trying to pull one over you.
Upon talking to a friend this morning about this ‘high school jock’, she expressed that feeling sad is when she feels the most creative. Feeling FOMO may actually foster a more proactive approach. What I’m trying to imply is that all of the rest feelings we’re constantly combating? They ain’t so bad! Instead, let’s look into how, when we express high levels of happiness, research suggests, we are perceived as more naive and are more likely to be targets of exploitation than when we express moderate happiness. This obviously explains why we wait for people to be in a good mood before we ask them for money, hoping that they won’t be as critical and careful in considering our request. Listen, the evolutionary psychologists have made a living off of telling us just what I’m trying to say- that other, less-blissful feelings serve a purpose.
There are people who have an irrational aversion to being happy, they’re said to suffer from something called ‘cherophobia’, another term could be ‘hedonophobia’, which is defined as the fear of pleasure. This is not what yours truly is drawing upon, not at all.
Do you remember the very, very famous movie (that may be credited for the increased tourism in India) -* Eat, Pray, Love*? There was an entire monologue by Elizabeth, herself- “Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it, you have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it. If you don’t, you will leak away your innate contentment.” This chips at a person’s ability to ever feel okay about loneliness or personal failure. It reads to you that nothing except complete and absolute happiness is all one warrants. Downright absurd, right? People might set very high standards for their own happiness as a function of this view- they may think they should be happy all the time, or extremely happy, and that can set people up to feel disappointed with themselves, that they fall short- and that could have these self-defeating effects.
Our world focuses on happiness and treats unhappiness as an unnecessary or useless feeling. In a 2017 article titled, “The Secret of Happiness, Feeling Good or Feeling Right,” published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology General, 2,324 university students in eight countries were studied. The researchers found that people may be happier when they feel the emotions they desire, regardless of whether those desired emotions were pleasant or unpleasant. In other words, feeling our feelings is important, more so than whether they are positive or negative.
I’m not sure I can use the word happy anymore, especially if you’ve been taking those shots this entire time. All I have to say is that if you were to play Seinfeld’s S05E04 at 11:46:47, you will hear Kramer say, “here’s to feeling good all the time!” And let’s just remember, that’s not all there is to life.
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