We’re inundated with it now. I blame Pharrell. He has us all dancing to “Happiness is the Truth!”
Okay, so I don’t really blame him. Sometimes art mirrors life and sometimes, vice versa. But true art always picks up on the rhythm of human emotions, the good, the bad, and the ugly. And in this case, the happy.
What we’re learned through psychological studies—the mountainous volumes of those these days—is that happy, optimistic people do better in life, in all areas. Okay, so Kafka notwithstanding (although who knows—maybe he was actually a happy man! Although appearances sure point to the contrary). But one need only read these current studies to realize happiness really is the truth. Here’s a great list of researchers on the subject.
So often people say to me, “But that’s just about positive thinking, and positive thinking in this case is a lie.”
Hard to argue with that. And honestly, positive thinking truly is about trying to get yourself to believe upbeat statements that might not be true. I have never found this to be effective! Merely repeating positive statements to myself doesn’t make me happier, or change the outcome of anything. Martin Seligman’s studies bore this out (thank God!), in Authentic Happiness. He focuses, rather, on changing your reaction to events, distilling that down to the actual truth.
If you dig deeper into the use of happiness (all things are, ultimately, only effective if you can use them), you find that no one is suggesting you lie to yourself. Quite the contrary.
Rather, the gist of the matter comes down to how you cope with negative beliefs that follow adverse events.
You have to dig out first what’s keeping you down, analyze it, and then devise a strategy to combat it. As Seligman said, “Learned optimism works not through an unjustifiable positivity about the world but through the power of ‘non-negative’ thinking.”
Quite a difference in perception.
This is even true of the illness of Depression. One of the most striking things I’ve learned through these studies is that how you think about your problems, depression included, will either relieve or aggravate the issues.
Now that’s a game changer.
Because life is filled with horrors. Sickness and death of those we love is a true horror. I don’t care what your spiritual/religious beliefs are, nothing prepares you for the loss of someone you love. Gotta grieve those.
Along with a plethora of other real-life events . . .
Comes with the territory of standing on this planet. Stuff happens.
And those events bring with them almost by default, Depression. That is, after all, one of the Five Stages of Grief. Failure, defeat, death, all bring with them the feeling of helplessness. But if you have an optimistic style of dealing with life, the Depression is short lived. If you have a pessimistic style, the symptoms can drag on for literally years.
The point is how you choose to deal with the aftermath. Any time my world gets tough, I go straight back to Victor Frankl. No way does my life compare with living for years in a Nazi concentration camp. And the further I go in mind-studies, the more in awe I am of the man for finding meaning there. He’s my litmus test.
Finding meaning, for me, is happiness. The world matters. You matter. We all do. Our lives have a purpose—whether we’ve found that purpose or not. But it’s there, underneath the various layers of our selves resides the whole reason for being.
So, is happiness just a buzzword?
Not at all. Contained within it is the meaning of life.
How do you find happiness?