A Cold Hard Look at Happy

Don’t cover your ears. I promise this isn’t about Pharrell’s latest hit.

But another musician has a good question for you: Laura Marling. She asks, “When were you happy, and how long has that been?” 

Well? Don’t let the good lady wait. How long has it been since you were happy?

If you’re looking at the ground, avoiding contact with this blog post because you can’t really remember the last time you were happy, I don’t blame you. And if you can remember when you were happy, but you’re ashamed because it’s been awhile, I don’t blame you either.

Because here it is, straight no chaser: we put too much pressure on ourselves to be happy. And then, when we are, it’s hard to pinpoint why.

Throughout your day, you experience a lot of emotions. A range, a wealth, a deluge. And they span the Richter scale of negativity and positivity (not necessarily in that order. Sometimes it’s more like positive, negative, negative, negative, positive, negative, positive, sleep). We collect feelings like a deck of playing cards: Stress, confidence, panic, sheer panic, confusion, delight, etc. And all of those feelings get pushed aside because someone has told you that you should be happy, all the time. Because if you’re happy, everything will be alright.

But happy is like anything else. Getting skinny won’t solve all of your confidence problems. Getting rejected from a job or from a love interest does not mean you’re the absolute worst. And likewise, being happy won’t fix all of your problems.

You just have to have a positive outlook most of the time about most of your life. Everyone gets down, everyone wants to employ a fetal position sometimes, everyone has an Achilles heel that when pinched turns you into the Incredible Hulk when you’re usually like Hello Kitty. But, somehow, everyone gets through it. And somehow, you do too.

So, let’s get technical. (Talk nerdy to me).

The definition for “happy” that you’ve been operating under goes a little something like this: feeling pleasure or enjoyment because of your life, situation, etc.

But the full definition of “happy” includes this little gem: favored by luck or fortune.

And BAM! You’re back in your high school English class, and you realize that Juliet (famous for her Romeo) does not talk to a “happy” dagger because she is feeling pleasure or enjoyment (because she isn’t) but that she is lucky that she has the dagger. (Morbid stuff, huh?)

So, maybe if we stop forcing ourselves to be pleased with our situation. If we stop trying to draw smiles on our faces when we really just feel like screaming into a pillow (or multiple pillows, or a full mattress), maybe then we could strive for happiness. But until that time, we need to see our lives as lucky or fortunate instead of simply pleasurable. We need to take the typical “happy” pressure off ourselves. If you’re gonna smile, then smile like you mean it.

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