The Myth of Constant Happiness, The Truth of Just Happier
I repeat: If, for some reason, you’re thinking that the goal is to be happy, like, every minute of every day, then oops! This may not be the book for you.
Actually, I’m not sure there is a book you can buy for that – at least, not one that works.
We’re not supposed to be happy all the time. We’ve got a beautiful range of emotional states that co-exist so we can tell the difference between them. Most philosophies will mention this in one way or another, from Ancient Chinese (Yin and Yang, “two halves that together complete wholeness”) to Jewish Mysticism/Kabbalah’s description of the world as a “dichotomy…that travels throughout nature” (kabbalahmadeeasy.com).
You couldn’t have strength without weakness, you couldn’t have light without dark, you couldn’t have love without loss.
― Jodi Picoult, The Tenth Circle
Long story shorter, and to quote a much-refuted song lyric about love and marriage (and a horse and carriage), “you can’t have one without the other.”
How can we know when we’re happy if we’re never sad? How can we tell we’re calm if we’re never, well, not calm? Notice the Yin/Yang symbol shows us that each of the opposites holds a bit of the other inside of it:
There’s a reason for that.
Oh, and there is even scientific proof that the constant quest for happiness can actually make us more depressed! I kid you not. (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10902-019-00193-9)
So, no. The goal is not to be constantly happy. Ugh. Life is life, and some moments will absolutely suck – like when you lose your wallet, someone steals your car, or you get on the scale (three times in a row, so you’re sure) and you’ve gained five pounds,
Yeah, yeah. Silver linings, Blah blah blah. I hear you. But getting to the silver linings takes work – after first spotting, and recognizing, the cloud.
(Still not convinced? Find Episode 28 of The Twilight Zone, “A Nice Place to Visit”, where Rocky wonders why he was let into heaven. Interesting.)
But, yes, we can tip that balance so we are happier.
Some of happiness is a choice. And the shortcut to those choices is in the words we use.
Myth: Words Can Never Harm Me
Truth: Words Have Power, and Lead to More, via Bridging Associations
I promise I’m not going to get too scientific here, but hey the science is kinda cool.
Our mind makes associations. What are they? Let’s go right to the first definition supplied by the American Psychological Association (APA) at dictionary.apa.org:
Association: a connection or relationship between two items (e.g., ideas, events, feelings) with the result that experiencing the first item activates a representation of the second.
Associations are there for a reason. Our brains can’t do everything all at once. Imagine if, say, we had to remember every step, every time, of brushing our teeth, or starting the car, or tying our shoes? Or if we forgot that the red light means stop? Yikes!
The brain needs – and develops – shortcuts. These are (science alert) called heuristics – defined as “efficient mental processes that help humans solve problems or learn a new concept” (https://www.thoughtco.com/heuristics-psychology-4171769). They’re kind of like “rules of thumb”, or maybe bookmarks, and many of them can even join together to form a habit with lots of steps, automatically taken.