Happy, happier, happiest.

There’s nothing wrong with being happy.

The United States has entrenched the concept of happiness — or the unalienable right to it — in their Declaration of Independence. The Asian country of Bhutan measures their national prosperity not in mere economic terms, but by calculating and monitoring Gross National Happiness.

If happiness is such a laudable goal, and such an unalienable right, then why do I feel like happiness is something I’m supposed to be actively working on, at the same time as I’m making sure my nails are done, my hips are svelte, my children perfect, and my house immaculate? Why do I feel guilty on days when I’m unreservedly, undeniably unhappy?

In other words, when did happiness — or more accurately, being seen to be pursuing happiness above all –become a status symbol? Why is simply being happy, or striving to live a meaningful life, of which happiness is a by-product, not enough?

This line from one of the articles Natalie posted, by Todd Kashdan of Psychology Today resonates with me:

Organizing your life around trying to become happier, making happiness the primary objective of life, gets in the way of actually becoming happy.

Scientists have found that the active pursuit of happiness, as an end to itself, makes people unhappy. Does this not seem true of the people you know? I know a few people who appear to have identified a “happiness deficit” in their lives. They are the ones carting The Happiness Project about in their purses. They’re keeping checklists. They actively remind themselves to “let go” of stressful thoughts, of negative energy. In so doing, they’ve become so concerned about the achievement of the goal of being happier, that they constantly seem miserable.

Who can be happy, when you’re in a state of perpetual competition with your emotions?

If you have to ask whether you’ve achieved happiness, you probably don’t know what you’re looking for.  And I don’t think that Gretchen Rubin and her ilk mean to make the pursuit of happiness a commodity to be acquired. But you know, as much as there’s nothing wrong with being happy, there’s also nothing wrong with being unhappy, either.  Grump that I am, I don’t need to be told otherwise.

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One thought on “Happy, happier, happiest.

  1. I really enjoyed this post. My husband and I have let go of any notion that there is an algorithm for happiness and we’ve just rolled with that for the last 4 years or so, the last two being the happiest years we can ever remember having (not the easiest or most fun, but the happiest).

    Do you find that people see the lack of an active pursuit of happiness on your part to be suspicious? We’ve had some interesting interactions with people who have a happiness checklist, and we are always caught off-guard.

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