Monday, June 28, 2010

Soul Survivor - Happiness Myth

One often thinks that in order to be a good person, you should be in the cheering up business. If you see someone you love feeling sad, you instantly want to cheer them up. This is a great sentiment, and I personally will never fault anyone for doing so. But the truth of the matter is, just feel bad. Whether you should or not doesn't always dictate what your heart wants to feel at that particular moment. So why do we think we should always be happy?

I'm here to tell you that feeling bad is not actually bad. It's a normal part of being a human being, and it's actually beneficial. According to Dr. Oz, grief of any level is a natural response that helps us adapt to major losses. Temporary unhappiness can also serve as a "beacon to spur positive change". It is believed that depression likely evolved in the first place to help us cope with environments that are unsatisfying or even harmful. Also, feeling down can actually be a signal that it's time to reevaluate what's happening in our lives. (Dr. Oz, O magazine; February, 2010)

Now don't get me wrong. It is still beneficial to channel positive thoughts in bad times as well. There is a lot research out there that supports the idea that people who channel positive emotions generally deal with adversity better. Sometimes it is all about perspective.

I am not a fan, however,  of the "it can always be worse" mantra. God only knows who's at the end of that line and what their situation is; if it can always be worse for everyone, what does the worst look like?!?! And I don't know about you, but it never actually makes me feel better. Now on top of feeling guilty for feeling bad,  I feel bad for those who are worse off. The bottom line is allowing yourself to emote naturally should never equate to you being ungrateful. We all know what ungrateful looks like, and it is so different than someone expressing natural emotion.

If you're having a bad day and you're feeling emotional, ride it out. Try this mantra: allow yourself to feel, then deal. Don't force anything on yourself that you aren't ready to accept and work through. I'm not saying wallow in your own self-pity for long periods of time. But feelings are powerful, and if they were as readily interchangeable as people think they are, the world would be a very different place. Just something to think about.


  1. It is a rare occaison that I'm feeling bad. And when I am feeling bad, it's very temporary. I simply don't have time to feel bad/depressed. I recently lost someone very close to me and I miss them very much. But I'd rather spend time thinking about our shared good times than mourning what I've lost. I don't think people have an issue with feeling bad, I think the issue is wallowing in that place. Especially if there's nothing you can do to change it. What's the point? *shrug*

  2. That's a good way to look at it. But unfortunately everyone doesn't deal with grief and sadness in the same way. But hey, if it works for you, then that's all that matters.

  3. I always, always feel better after a good, cleansing cry. Has never failed me. Also, I think people who are always happy must not be completely "keyed in." Melancholy has been a muse for my writing, a catalyst for me to examine and work on relationships, and is also the kind of music I'm most moved by. I feel human, vulnerable, and not alone...most of the time...when I'm melancholic. I'm all for allowing myself to thoroughly feel whatever pops up. Anyway, I'm not one of those people who can suppress my feelings and trick myself out of feeling them even if I wanted to. I'm pleased that I'm this way.

  4. Well said Tony. I couldn't agree with you more, because I am the same way. I actually think I am better for it. Weird, huh? Not too many people learn lessons from happy times. I'm grateful for that aspect of feeling sadness. I always re-evaluate there.