Is Happiness Possible?
By Joe Segraves, LPC
Hollywood and fairy tales attempt to create an idyllic image of what life should look like. However, this isn’t reality and treating it as something attainable can cause profound unhappiness and leave us wondering “Is happiness possible?” Life is filled with inevitable events that will cause unhappiness (loneliness, work stress, relationship issues, medical issues, death, and the list goes on!) The unfortunate reality about our thoughts and feelings is that we have very limited control over them. When we believe that we should be able to control our thoughts and feelings, we actually start to make ourselves feel worse because we feel that we are weak or inadequate for failing to do so. Before examining a potential antidote to this misconception, it’s important to understand the building blocks of the human brain and why it generates and focuses on negative emotions.
From the beginning of time, the human mind was developed to seek out potential threats (enemy armies/tribes, wildlife, famine, disease, etc.). However, we have the luxury of living in a society that has many less threats than our long ago ancestors. However, our brains have not evolved at nearly the same rate as society has. Today, our brain is still primed to seek out threats and focus on them. However, the threats today are more in line with things such as work stress, relationship problems, school issues, social isolation, and much more. As society has started to become more complex, and we rush from task to task, it’s no mystery that our brains may feel overwrought with anxiety and stress and we are spending our free energy googling questions like “Is happiness possible?”
While we may not be able to control all of our thoughts and feelings, we do have control over our actions and how we choose to engage with the world that best aligns with our values. Identifying and connecting with our values is 100% within our control and can move you in a direction that provides your life with vitality.
Identifying your values can be derived by asking yourself a few of the following questions:
What do you want your life to be about?
What sort of person do you want to be?
What sort of relationships do you want to build?
If you weren’t struggling with your feelings or avoiding your fears, what would you be channeling your energy into doing?
Our lives are surrounded by and effected by relationships with other people, ourselves, our environment, and our work. By living a life that is best in line with our values, we will create more meaningful connections and live a life that is more enjoyable and worth living. So instead of questioning “Is happiness possible” it’s time to start asking “Am I living my most meaningful life?”
Harris, R. (2008). The Happiness Trap. Exisle Publishing Ltd.