Do we actually want to be happy?
I recently read an article entitled ‘I don’t want my kids to be happy’ – it catches your attention doesn’t it?! The article talks about happiness being one emotion of many, that we can’t possibly be happy all the time, so why do we portray the ideal life as one of permanent happiness? Think highlight reels on social media….various quotes encouraging happiness…plenty of books on the subject.
The author promotes ‘contentedness’ rather than ‘happiness’ – and she has a point. But I also think she misses an important one. Call this semantics, call me picky, but I think it’s a point worth considering: there is a difference between feeling happy and being in a state of happiness. The immediate jumping-for-joy pleasure versus the overall happiness (contentedness) you experience when your life feels in balance.
The article got me thinking…my Facebook page and blog are called ‘empowering health and happiness’….so what do I actually mean by that? Now that may seem a silly question. Surely I would have defined that before I used the phrase? Yes – and no. I believe that my health and happiness have improved over the past 18 months as I have made certain choices in life; and over the past few months I have been reflecting on this journey and figuring out where to now, and how best to share what I have learned with others.
I have come to realise over that time that my life has numerous elements and for me to be ‘happy’, each of those elements has to be in play. (More on this another day.)
On reading the article, however, I realise that when I use the word ‘happy’ in this context, I don’t mean a ‘moment of pure happiness’ but actually ‘contentedness’. The article describes contentedness as a choice, a mindset. And I tend to agree. In my view, happiness or contentedness is about peace, balance and being at ease with decisions we have made. So when we say ‘I am happy with life’ we mean we feel we have got the balance right overall, that we have made choices that feel right, and we are in a good place. (Not that we are jumping up and down like an excited child who has just opened the present of their dreams!)
Thankfully thesaurus.com counts ‘happiness’ as a synonym for ‘contentedness’ –‘empowering health and contentedness’ just doesn’t have the same ring to it!
The writer has a point. Life has highs and lows, there are frustrations and disappointments, moments of anger and sadness. We need to teach our children – and in fact ourselves – to deal with all of these emotions, as we are likely to experience them all at some point.
Which got me thinking about how we express our happiness externally; what are we modelling for our children? To be honest, I don’t see why I shouldn’t post about my happiness on social media. For sure, I feel a range of emotions and I may occasionally post about my frustrations, but if OVERALL I am happy (i.e. content) why shouldn’t I shout about it? It’s a great place to be and I am proud to be on a journey to achieve this. So why shouldn’t I encourage my sons to find happiness too – not be eternally joyful and upbeat, but to lead a life that fulfills and drives them? We have a responsibility to teach them about the reality of life, but we also have a responsibility to show them what happiness looks like – and be proud if they achieve this.
So I believe that whilst it is impossible to feel happy all the time, I do think it is right to strive for happiness – and to encourage our children to as well.
Read the article that inspired this month’s thoughts here: