Overly Happy

Given the amount I talk about happiness on this blog, you might assume I live a charmed life with a constant smile on my face but that isn’t true.  In fact, when you consider happiness from a evolutionary point of view being constantly stung out in a good mood would likely ensure your species didn’t survive.  After all without fear or worry, your offspring might be lunch for something else which is hardly productive to a species long term survival.

In reality, my life is fairly good most of the time, but it also has its ups and downs just like yours. For example, last year I had a bit of a down period of a few months where I was just utter disengaged from my work.  I didn’t care about my work at all and really didn’t want to be there.  Being in that frame of mind for too long started to eat into the rest of my life and the end result was obvious: I wasn’t that happy for a few months.  Not full on depressed, but definitely down.

Yet shouldn’t I be happy with my life?  Well people might consider my answer should be yes, but you also have to consider that  the constant pressure from everywhere to be happier and improve yourself.  This isn’t to say I don’t like some degree of self improvement, but with happiness our culture seem bloody well obsessed with it.  Don’t believe, do a Google search for ‘happy’…I got 2.4 billion results.  Or if you want to refine things a bit search “how to be happy” and you will get 639 million results.  Given the amount of research, books and other media on the topic we should all be walking around with a permanent smile on our faces. Yet we still aren’t happy all the time.

So what’s the problem? Well basically we can’t stop feeling the negative emotions in life.  We still feel fear, greed, envy, and yes even the dreaded sad emotion.  But that is actually a good thing. The fact of the matter is your negative emotions are there and they do serve a purpose.  You actually need them to help define the other positive emotions like happiness.  It’s like trying to define zero without the one in binary or vice versa.

We aren’t meant to be happy all the time, so it is okay to stop trying to feeling happy constantly.  It’s like we all got addicted to being happy and we all collectively on the constant search for a our next high from it.  Yet that kind of thinking can be dangerous to your long term well being.  For example, as you can start to overeat to feel better, watch too much TV to feel better and then over time feel bad that you got fat and don’t do anything in you life but work and watch TV.  Your quest for happiness ended up with you being unhappy because you didn’t consider the long term cost of being too happy.

In the end, you should adjust what you are doing in your life when you do get down for a period of time.  That is a healthy thing to try, but we shouldn’t be a constantly evolving trying to get just a few more minutes of each day of being happy.  Oh, I got 49 minutes of happiness at work today, that was better than 45 last week. That isn’t healthy, so my advice is find that point where you have enough happiness in your life.  That you generally feel fairly good about the world, but still have your bad days too and then stop trying to be happier. Life is meant to be lived, so don’t spend it overly trying to improve something that is already just fine the way it is.

So do you feel pressured to be happier in your life? If so, how do you deal with it?

7 thoughts on “Overly Happy”

  1. I wonder what it must be like for someone like Jim Carrey. He walks in a restaurant and everyone expects him to be funny and happy.

    Must be a downer. I’ve heard that he’s had depression in the past.

  2. You have to have some cloudy days to better appreciate the sunny days.
    Hopefully there is more sun than cloud

    Taken from BC comic strip by Johnny Hart
    “Things I am hankful For
    I am thankful that I have one leg
    To limp is no disgrace
    Although I can’t be number one
    I still can run the race
    It’s not the things you can not do
    That make you what you are
    It’s doing good with what you got
    That lights the Morning star”

    I cut that out and framed it several years ago.


  3. I gave up trying to be happy a long time ago after so many failures. Usually I am happy when I am not aware that I am happy. The moment I realize that I am happy and want to prolong it, that starts the unhappy cycle. Now these days, my happy moods generally start on Friday morning and the unhappy ones start around Sunday evening.

  4. I’m disengaged from my profession right now after my last contract. I think I just need a break.

    People think with all this money I make in such a short amount of time, I should always be happy but money doesn’t change who you are or how you feel above a comfortable income.

    I don’t feel pressure to be happy but I do feel pressure to really enjoy every single minute of Baby Bun because time really flies with children.

  5. I heard this way to look at the spectrum of being Happy. On the far right side is Happiness and on the far left side is Sadness. In the middle is ” Contentment”. We spend most of the time in the Contentment area. At the extremes, Happiness and Sadness are temporary emotions we feel. We can’t stay there permanently. In the middle where Contentment lies is where we live mostly…at least we hope that is the case.

  6. Thanks for your take on this Tim, as I often beat myself up for not being ‘happier’ now that I am semi-retired and do more of the work I prefer. I sometimes feel guilty and also worry about not working at my full earning’s potential; but when I think back at how my old jobs nearly killed me, gratitude is once again restored!
    As an aside, Will Ferguson wrote a humorous (yet oddly truthful) book called ‘Happiness’ with the premise that civilization would entirely fall apart if everyone was happy all of the time. Your article fits in nicely with that premise…

  7. @Sam M – I sort of like that idea. Contentment is more realistic goal for a baseline rather than happy. I don’t think my cheeks could handle smiling that much anyway. 😉

    @Rick – Thanks for the reminder on that book. I read it years ago and enjoyed it. I may have to look it up again.

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