Happiness is back!
Twenty-six years after Bobby McFerrin had us all whistling “Don’t Worry, Be happy,” we’re now humming along with Pharrell Williams about how “Happy” we are. And that’s just dandy. It sure beats the heck out of being unhappy, right? That is unless unhappy truly is how you’re feeling.
Spend any time on Facebook or in the self-help section of your local bookstore, and you may get the false sense that everyone around you is just as happy as happy can be. If your heart’s not leaping like lords or your grin doesn’t stretch ear to ear, you may feel out of step in an otherwise bubbly world.
It’s not the real world of course.
In the real world, people get sick; others die; relationships and marriages end; banks foreclose; the coffee pot doesn’t work; traffic crawls; the subway’s late; that lesser qualified co-worker gets your promotion; you slam your finger in the door — life happens. So, where on Earth is all of this runaway happiness coming from?
I’d suggest, it’s from people who sincerely desire happiness, so much so some project it, or a happy veneer, even when that personally may not exist for them. Consequently, the social media landscape can resemble a gooey candy land where all its inhabitants look perfect, have perfect children, visit sunny destinations, consume decadent desserts and party hours on end.
If that’s not enough, our friends send us wading through a meme stream that makes having a positive outlook not only essential but easily attainable. Not only can you be happy, but you MUST be happy because the doggone meme says so.
Such seemed the case a couple days ago when I posted an illustration with my morning greeting. It simply said, “How to be happy: decide every morning you are in a good mood.”
Essentially, that message rings true: happiness mostly is a CHOICE. It’s a helpful reminder that we can decide to see life’s silver lining rather than its cloud.
But, what about when happiness isn’t A, B, C or D on the multiple choice exam? What about when “all of the above” leaves us swimming in life’s stormy seas?
My friend reminded me of as much once she spotted my meme working its way down her newsfeed. She explained how she wasn’t about to play happy for happiness’ sake. She explained, how part of her being a healthy, happy person was to allow herself to fully experience, even embrace, those moments where she was less than happy, or sad, or blue or lower than that color.
She’s right: Hollow happiness is pointless and inauthentic. Cheerful-on-demand isn’t mandatory. You certainly aren’t required to be happy for anyone other than yourself. If you just want to go sit in a dark corner, there’s a time for that. And, only you know when it’s that time.
Just don’t get too comfortable in that dark place.
Authentic happiness isn’t so much a requirement as it’s a responsibility. We’re responsible for our own happiness (and by extension not to interfere with anyone else’s). Research shows a sunnier disposition makes us healthier and better problem solvers — read, greater contributors. Not to mention, happier folks are more pleasant to be around.
True happiness is intentional; it comes when we give ourselves permission to be that way. It comes when we remind ourselves to find it.
In that way, happiness is much like putting on your pants or skirt each morning. It’s just part of getting dressed. You wouldn’t want to leave the house undressed would you?
Although if you did, I’d probably laugh uncontrollably and – if only in that moment – feel genuinely happy.
© Copyright 2014, Jonathan Clarke. All rights reserved.