We all are victims of negative thinking and overthinking. We all have some unhelpful beliefs about happiness that make us miserable and sad. And, we often think we can’t be happy as we compare ourselves too much with others. Sometimes, it’s other people’s opinions that form our perception of ourselves and in most cases, it’s just the way we were raised.
However, even if you can see that happiness is within your power, you may have some misbeliefs and assumptions that have led you to conclude that happiness isn’t possible for you.
In this article, we’ll look at some of the obstacles that get in our way of being happy; we’ll identify the key potential problems, difficulties, and common challenges, and we’ll also explain how you can manage them (In our upcoming articles). But first, let’s look at some common, unhelpful beliefs about happiness.
Table of Contents
Happiness Explained: Definition of Happiness/Happiness Definition?
Happiness is a matter of following your human instinct to find purpose and meaning, managing the challenges that come with finding purpose and meaning, and enjoying the small pleasures in life.
You will have to learn that happiness doesn’t happen by chance – it’s a result of the thought, time, and effort you put into pursuing and maintaining happiness.
Happiness comes from identifying what’s important in your life – in the different areas of your life: your work, your relationships, your hobbies and interests, your health, and so on – and having aims and purpose in those areas.
Being happy – living according to your values, having goals, doing what is important to you and has meaning for you – not only involves making an effort and persevering, taking some risks, and making sacrifices. It also means stepping out of your comfort zone. There will always be challenges and difficulties involved in pursuing happiness, but if you don’t push yourself, nothing will change, and you won’t be happier.
Why is Happiness important in society?
When someone you love and care about is unhappy, you feel it too; but whether you just want them to be happy so you can be happy, or you believe that you have the solutions to their problems, you cannot make it your mission to ‘fix’ them and make them happy. You can, though, be supportive.
So many studies have shown that friendships boost our happiness. In 2017, Professors Ed Diener and Martin Seligman, for example, conducted a study at the University of Illinois that showed that a person’s happiness is highly correlated with social relationships.
They reported that: ‘The most salient characteristics shared by the 10% of students with the highest levels of happiness and the fewest signs of depression were their strong ties to friends and family and commitment to spending time with them.’
You don’t have to make your life look like anybody else says it should look. – Dee Rees
what are some common beliefs about happiness?
The most common belief about happiness is that to be truly happy you need meaning and a purpose in your life; but how do you find meaning and purpose? To stand any chance of finding meaning and purpose we need to first understand what’s important to us; we need to start with our values.
We all have values, and we each have different values. Maybe you’ve not given much thought to what your values are, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have them. Quite simply, your values are those things that are important to you and give weight to the way that you live, work, and relate to other people.
What have your values got to do with being happy? In different areas of your life, when what you do and how you live to match your values, things will just feel right. What you do and how you live will feel compatible with what’s important to you. And that will help you to be happy.
Unhelpful Beliefs About Happiness
Unhelpful Belief About Happiness #1: I Don’t Believe I Deserve to Be Happy
Maybe you feel you don’t deserve happiness; you don’t deserve to be happy because of something you did wrong in the past. You made the wrong decision to do or not do something. Or maybe, you blame yourself; you feel a sense of loss and sorrow and wish you could undo a choice that you made. Maybe you regret something you did or didn’t do. Perhaps you did something that harmed or hurt someone else, and now you feel guilty; you feel regret and remorse. You believe it would be wrong to try and be happy.
If that’s the case, you need to know that regret, remorse, and guilt have a positive intent. Rather than keeping you stuck, the positive purpose of these ‘negative’ emotions is to prompt you to make up for your wrongdoing, learn from your mistake, and behave differently in the future.
Happy people learn from their mistakes and move on. You can do the same. Stop berating yourself for what you did wrong. Acknowledge and accept that what’s done is done and can’t be changed. There’s nothing you can do about it. But what you can do is change what you do next.
It could be, though, that you haven’t even done anything wrong. But you believe that you have. Perhaps you feel guilty that you can’t alleviate someone’s suffering, or that you didn’t do enough to help someone. Perhaps
you feel guilty that you survived something that other people did not. If that’s the case, then you’re experiencing imagined guilt. Imagined guilt happens when you feel guilty about events that you were not, or are not, responsible for.
Unhelpful Belief About Happiness #2: I Don’t Believe I Can Forgive
Perhaps, though, it’s not that you feel you’ve done something wrong, it’s that someone else has done you wrong, and you can’t move past that. Perhaps a friend has betrayed you, or your partner has had an affair, you’ve been unfairly sacked or you’ve suffered an injury as a result of someone else’s actions. You don’t believe you can be happy because you just can’t forgive.
But forgiving doesn’t mean giving in, minimizing, excusing, or forgetting the offense; the other person is still responsible for their actions. They may not deserve to be forgiven for your pain, sadness, and suffering, but you deserve to be free of this negativity. Forgiveness is for you, not the other person.
Forgiveness means letting go of the resentment, frustration, or anger that you feel as a result of someone else’s actions. It involves no longer wanting punishment, revenge, or compensation. Acknowledge and accept that what’s done is done and can’t be changed. But what you can change is what you do next.
Of course, forgiveness is not a switch you can flip and then immediately forget what the other person did. But even if you don’t have the will to forgive right now, you can still learn to live with the fact of the other person’s wrongdoing as you work towards happiness.
Note: Life becomes easier when you learn to accept an apology you never got. – Robert Brault
Unhelpful Belief About Happiness #3: I Don’t Believe I Can Be as Happy as I Once Was
Maybe, though, it’s not your own or someone else’s wrongdoing in the past that holds you back from striving for happiness. Do you look back on other times and circumstances in your life and feel that everything was so much better then? Were you happier? There’s nothing wrong with reminiscing – looking back on happy times in your life – but dwelling on those times can keep you stuck and deceive you into thinking you will never be that happy again.
You need to keep things in perspective. It’s easy to idealize the past; to minimize, forget, or deliberately ignore difficulties that may also have occurred during the happier times. Even if you were able to recreate the same circumstances and situations when you were happier, it wouldn’t be the same.
Whether the past was that good or whether you’ve idealized it, dwelling on the past takes you away from making the most of the opportunities of the present. As someone once said: you can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading your last one.
Unhelpful Belief About Happiness #4: I Don’t Believe I Can Be as Happy as Other People
It could be that you believe that happiness is for other people. You compare yourself with them, see that they’re happy, and believe that your life can never be the same as theirs. You’re right – it can’t.
Your life can’t be the same as theirs. You are too unique to compare yourself fairly; your skills, abilities, contributions, and values are unique to you and your purpose in this world. They can never be fairly compared to anyone else.
There will always be someone else you know, you hear about or read about in magazines and on social media to compare yourself to. There’s always someone you can perceive as having more or doing better than you and therefore being happier than you.
But measuring your worth, your abilities, opportunities, your career progress, etc. against other people can only lead to you feeling inferior. It’s a sure-fire recipe for unhappiness. If you want to be happy you need to let, go of comparing yourself to others. Jealousy and envy are incompatible with happiness, so if you’re constantly comparing yourself to others, it’s time to stop.
Instead, be inspired by others and, with the help of this article, start planning how you can work towards what you want. This will make you more positive and in control, since you are no longer looking at what the other person has that you haven’t – you’ll be too busy working towards what you want. You won’t have the time or a reason to be envious!
Unhelpful Belief About Happiness #5: I Don’t Believe I Can Be Happy Until Something Changes in My Life
Are you waiting for something to happen before you can be happy? Do you believe that you’ll only be happy once your perfect partner comes along, or the perfect job or new home materializes?
Maybe you’re waiting for a relationship to end, the neighbors to move, or someone to die. Perhaps you’re waiting to have a baby or for the children to leave home. Or it could be that you believe you can only be happy once you’re healthier, you’ve lost weight or got fitter.
It’s easy to believe that happiness is something you’ll achieve once all the stars have aligned, and something else in your life is finally in place. But this is just a story you’ve been telling yourself. Happiness is not circumstantial. And that’s good news; you don’t have to wait for everything to be perfect.
Instead, you can learn to be happy while you’re waiting for that big lottery win, the perfect partner, the perfect job, or whatever it is you’re hoping for. When it comes to happiness, the journey is just as important as the destination; the journey is an inherent part of happiness.
- Happiness happens in two ways: first as a long-term, general sense of wellbeing – eudaimonic happiness; and second as a short-lived pleasure – hedonic happiness.
- Aristotle suggests that using our ability to think and reason, we can – indeed we must – each work out for ourselves what makes for meaning, purpose, and small pleasures in our lives.
- The fact that happiness requires you to give it your thought and effort is a good thing! It means that the ability to be happy is within your power; you have the power to make yourself happy.
- Rather than waiting to be happy, you can learn to be happy. You can make happiness a habit; your natural, normal way of being.
- However, you may have beliefs and assumptions that have led you to conclude that happiness isn’t possible for you.
- Maybe you feel you don’t deserve to be happy because of something you did wrong in the past. What’s done is done, and whatever you did wrong can’t be changed. But what you can change is what you do next.
- If you’re experiencing imagined guilt, you feel guilty for events that you were not responsible for. And if you’re concerned about other people’s situations, know that being happy is the right thing to be because then you’re in a better position to help others to be happy.
- Even if you don’t have the will to forgive someone’s wrongdoing towards you right now, you can still learn to live with the fact of the other person’s wrongdoing as you work towards happiness.
- If you don’t believe you can be as happy as you once were, know that whether the past was that good or whether you’ve idealized it, dwelling on it takes you away from making the most of the opportunities of the present.
- Jealousy and envy are incompatible with happiness. Instead of comparing your situation and yourself with others, be inspired by them. Start planning how you can work towards what you want and be happy.
- You don’t have to wait for something in your life to be in place, for the stars to have aligned and for everything to be perfect before you can start being happy. Instead, you can learn to be happy while you’re waiting for whatever it is you’re hoping for.