Getting Happy

I’m reading a book right now centered around introversion (surprise surprise; book review to come later) and the chapter I just wrapped up really got me thinking. It brought up some interesting points about happiness, particularly happiness in Western culture. The main point of the chapter is the paradox of “getting happy”: basically, we (Westerners) are so focused on being happy and getting happy, that it ultimately takes away from our happiness.

The chapter explores the pressure many feel to be happy; We feel that we should be happy all the time. Particularly as introverts, we may feel that certain things that make others (usually extroverts) happy, should make us happy as well. For example, if everyone else is having fun at a crowded, noisy, sweaty club – but we’re miserable – we feel like we’re wrong and should be having fun too.

Too often we feel bad about the times when we’re NOT happy, when in reality (and in other cultures), an unhappy state is totally acceptable. Going through periods of unhappiness, no matter how long or brief, is a totally normal part of life. In some cultures, it’s even seen as a sign of strength.

One of the ways that the author suggests combating this “getting happy” problem is the practice of mindfulness. This is a hot topic right now, so you have probably seen or heard of it. For example, mindfulness coloring books are super popular right now. Mindfulness in a nutshell is allowing yourself to be aware of and accept your thoughts and feelings of the present moment without passing judgement. Relating back to the chapter I read – those thoughts and feeling may not always be pleasant. It’s important to accept the less-than-happy feelings too.

One mindfulness exercise that I’ve somewhat tried to pick up on is meditation.  I’ve read countless articles citing how beneficial meditation can be for your health and mood. It’s particularly helpful for those who suffer from anxiety or depression, so try meditating next time you’re feeling anxious. I have a meditation app on my phone, Buddhify, that I use when I’m going to sleep. I really like it because I have a hard time meditating on my own- I need something to focus on, and the app walks me through it. The app has a slew of guided meditations for different situations (can’t sleep, traveling, stressed, etc.). It’s no surprise that one of the categories is “Difficult Emotions”. While I haven’t tried any of these guided meditations yet, I’ll definitely use one next time I’m struggling with getting happy.

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