The advantage of being real (not happy)

CLAUDIA RÖHLEN

CLAUDIA RÖHLEN

As the Wellbeing & Career Development Manager of our Breakthroguh programme, Claudia works with care-experienced young people aged 14-18. She holds a MSc in Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology.

This Saturday, 20th of March, is International Day of Happiness and Drive Forward Foundation is inviting you to be REAL, rather than happy!

There is a common misconception of the terms “happiness” and “positivity” that I, as a practitioner of positive psychology often encounter. People tend to think of happiness as this desirable state in which everything is good, pleasant and peaceful. Most people think of it as a permanent state of being that we hope to achieve one day in future. We long for it and we work hard towards it, but we never seem to be able to really grasp it. In my experience, this longing for happiness has two major downsides.

Firstly, the construct of a “happy future life” overlooks all the happiness that is already around us and within us. I’d argue that even in the most challenging times, there is something to be grateful for. We might not always be able to see it right then and there, but if we are able to connect to ourselves, to pause and to take a deep breath, we may come to realise the good things in our lives and ourselves; and allow ourselves to experience happiness right in that very moment. I invite you to start thinking about happiness as a fleeting moment that we can experience in many ways and in a multitude of situations. In that sense, happiness is infinite, because we can access it wherever we are – if only we allow ourselves to do so. Moreover, we will learn to that happiness and sadness are not mutually exclusive. In situations where we experience adversity or hardship, there might still be a sense of gratitude and appreciation within us that puts a smile on our face.

Secondly, being on the constant lookout for happiness or trying to pretend that we are happy when actually we aren’t, completely takes away from being yourself, and from being real. The concept of toxic positivity gained attention in recent months. “Toxic positivity is the excessive and ineffective overgeneralisation of a happy, optimistic state across all situations. The process of toxic positivity results in the denial, minimization, and invalidation of the authentic human emotional experience” (Samara Quintero and Jamie Long). If we overdo happiness, we can end up exhausted and empty because we don’t allow ourselves to express and experience our emotions.

What happiness really means to me, is the ability to find positive ways for dealing with challenging situations, and to allow myself to feel sad or angry or bored or annoyed when I do. Allowing these emotions and the physical sensations that come with it makes me feel alive. And what can make one happier than the feeling of being alive?

Action for Happiness is a movement of people committed to building a happier and more caring society. We want to see a fundamentally different way of life – where people care less about what they can get just for themselves and more about the happiness of others.”

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