How Wanting to be Happy is Making You Miserable
As a health and wellness coach, I work with my clients to identify their goals, and together, we develop a pathway to help them attain those goals. A common goal I see a lot is wanting to feel happier in everyday life. While this is a great goal to have and absolutely achievable when we focus on mind and body wellness, it's important to understand your expectations of happiness. I know for me personally when I started my wellness journey, I wanted to feel happier. I thought that if I worked on myself inside and out, I would just be happy all the time, but that's a very common myth. Yes, working on your wellness will bring you more happiness, but the light needs to be shed on the real experiences of what a normal amount of happiness looks like.
Happiness is something that comes from within us. It is our job as individuals to take time to self-reflect and discover the things that bring us joy. When we are working on our wellness, this is a big aspect of the journey. The idea I like to share with my clients is leaning into what brings them joy and making time for it. By leaning in, I mean learning more about why this brings you joy and learning about how you can incorporate it into your life more. It's also essential to focus on your full body wellness. When we start to set and attain health and wellness goals, we feel good from the inside out, which also brings more happiness. Basically, working on ourselves and getting to know ourselves is a wonderful way to be happier. With all of this being said, one common challenge that I run into with clients (as well as on my own journey) is the bad days. The days when we just can't seem to find joy or happiness. The days when everything seems to be gloomy and wrong, even though you didn't do anything different. Because we are so focused on being happier these days feel like a big setback. It can feel like all your progress has gone away and like you "shouldn't" be experiencing these emotions. That is where we fall into a dangerous thinking trap. No matter how many bad days you have, it is important to remind yourself that you are still making progress and that your progress is still there; having bad days doesn't change that.
Happiness is just one part of the human experience, and while it feels good to experience happiness, we need to acknowledge and appreciate our other emotions as well. I often hear people refer to their emotions as "positive" or "negative"; so, for example, happy, excited, and joyful would fall under positive or good, whereas sad, scared, and angry fall under negative or bad. This is where we need to change our thinking. Our emotions are not bad or negative, no matter what we have been taught. All of our emotions are here to help us better understand ourselves and the world around us. Imagine how boring your life would be if you only experienced emotions you define as "good." Suddenly happiness wouldn't feel as happy because you have nothing else to compare it to. Really take a moment and reflect on a time when you felt a strong emotion like anger, sadness, or regret in your life. If you really take time to think about this experience, you can see how these emotions taught you something, whether it was how to cope, how to be resilient, how to end a toxic relationship, and so on. All of our emotions serve a purpose.
We need to remember that our emotions are passing, they do not define who we are, and they are not who we are. Our emotions are just part of our experience. When we focus so much on only trying to achieve happiness, we miss out on how wonderful and profound all of our emotions are. The ironic part is that when we take time to be mindful and excepting of all the emotions we feel, we actually do become happier with ourselves and our lives. So the next time you feel down, instead of wishing you felt happier, take time to validate your emotions and discover what they are trying to tell you.