Every time I turn on the computer, I read a blog, article or meme telling me how to be happy. It seems that the latest craze is all about embracing positivity and learning happiness. Well I’m afraid I for one won’t be doing it.
Do I want to be happy? Of course I do, who doesn’t? But I want to be happy in my own skin, satisfied with my own life and content that I am having a positive impression on the world and not impacting negatively upon it. I don’t want canned happiness that comes from someone teaching me what I should be happy about and reminding me to smile.
If I have a bad day, the last thing I want to read is somebody telling me why it was in fact a good day. We all have bad days, we need them or we forget how lucky we are on the good days. And that’s a slippery slope to canned happiness. And quite frankly, false positivity just seems incredibly self-indulgent to me. Let me explain.
The world is a beautiful place where terrible things happen. I’m not talking natural disasters, I’m talking people, us. We are judgemental, greedy and narcissistic and we cause each other untold pain. We are destroying our planet, treating different species as inferior and allowing other human beings to suffer for our own greed.
Psychologists believe that one of the best ways to achieve happiness is to help other people. It’s called helper’s high and it has a basis in science. Helping someone else releases endorphins, assists you to be grateful for what you have, takes your mind off your own problems and it can even improve your physical health by encouraging you to be more active.
There are numerous charities out there run and staffed by generous, hard working people – both paid staff and volunteers – who do everything in their power to right a particular wrong in the world. Be that helping the homeless, providing access to medical assistance for people in third world countries or aiding adults, children or animals who are ill or suffering.
There are also people carrying out amazing acts of kindness for random strangers, assisting elderly neighbours, popping round daily to see local people who are lonely, walking dogs in shelters and generally making the world a better place.
And however difficult their own lives are, those people who go out of their way to help someone else will make two people happy – both the person they help and themselves.
And in turn, the world becomes a slightly better place, one kind act at a time. If we all went out of our way to do positive things for other people then maybe, just maybe we would actually be really happy. And I’m talking throw yourself into life, embrace the bad days as well as the good, be kind to each other, stamp out bullying, live in harmony kind of happy.
This canned happiness lark is totally counter-intuitive. Many people are unhappy with their own lives and it takes a brave person to change the things we are miserable about, even if we know that the changes will ultimately be positive. That might mean finding a new job, moving house or ending a damaging relationship.
But if you can honestly look at your own life and say that everything in it is as it should be to make you happy and you are still miserable, what then? Charities are crying out for help. Elderly people go weeks without speaking to a soul. Shelter dogs don’t get walked, hospital patients don’t get visitors and people die alone and nobody notices for weeks.
There is always somebody out there who needs help and yet every day, perfectly able, sensible people waste their time meditating in a fruitless bid to find happiness. Well in my humble opinion, you’re looking in all the wrong places.