Lately I’ve not been feeling happy at all. And when I look at my life, I just can’t figure out why.
I have a beautiful family, good health, steady work that I like, friends whom I love and are very close to my heart…
So why do I feel sad? Why do I feel like something is missing?
I have everything to be happy and yet, I don’t feel that way. What is wrong with me?
“The reason people find it so hard to be happy is that they always see the past better than it was, the present worse than it is, and the future less resolved than it will be.” Marcel Pagnol
I tried to take a good hard look at myself to see if I could understand why I was feeling so low. I paid attention to all moments that made me feel sad and anxious. I realised that I felt this need to “be happy all the time”.
And that got me thinking — is there an obsession to be happy? Is happiness a trap?
So, I went online and started to do some research, reading articles, visiting forums and scanning comments.
First, I realized I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. Like myself, there were tons of people all over the world who weren’t feeling happy about their own lives (and what was interesting is that our lives were different and we weren’t necessarily experiencing the same thing).
As I dug around my research, I found an article titled, Happiness Is Not Enough: Why a Life Without Meaning Will Make You Sick.
In the article, the author talked about the difference between living a happy life versus a meaningful life. This really resonated with me. I realised that happiness is not always the solution to a fulfilling life.
Below are two concepts from his article that changed my perception of happiness:
1. Happiness doesn’t mean feeling awesome about your life
The article mentioned a study that actually proved this by showing that the greater the emphasis its participants put on happiness, the less happy they actually were.
It found that people putting the greatest emphasis on being happy, reported 50% less frequent positive emotions, 35% less satisfaction about their life, and 75% more depressive symptoms.
The conclusion is that “happiness is such an overused phrase and under-examined concept that we all have an idea of what it is and how it works, but this can lead us astray.”
2. Happiness vs. Meaning
The article stated: “Here’s the crux of this whole issue: happiness and meaning are different, and happiness without meaning really doesn’t lead to a great life. Being happy is about feeling good. Meaning is derived from contributing to others or to society in a bigger way. “
And that was such an AHA moment for me. Maybe the problem was that I didn’t feel as though my life was meaningful. If that was true, what do I do about it?
Here’s another article that got me thinking about that, Meaning and Happiness Aren’t Always Interlinked.
That was such a key concept for me. You can also live a meaningful life but you don’t have to feel happy all the time.
According to the article, “While we can be happy and find meaning in life, the two don’t always go hand in hand. Living meaningfully means that we need to accept the fact that there will be bumps, bruises, and perhaps even unhappiness along the way.
“Above all else, experiencing a meaningful life means living in the moment, while connecting the past, the present, and the future. Doing so gives us a clearer idea of where we need to go in light of where we have been.”
Good point. Living means staying in the present doing what you are meant to do.
Psychiatrist and Auschwitz survivor Viktor Frankl said it best: “If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering.”
You can read more about it in his book, Man’s Search For Meaning.
It is funny how things fall into place. A few days after digging around to find my answers on happiness and meaning, I stumbled upon a documentary about one of my favorite Japanese filmmakers, Hayao Miyazaki.
This video is just a trailer of one of his animations, but I want to share it so you can see his view on happiness.
“The notion that one’s goal in life is to be happy, that your own happiness is the goal… I just don’t buy it.” Hayao Miyazaki.
After all the digging around and reading to explore what was holding me back from happiness, I started to put my attention on doing things that mean something to me.
And you know what? I started to feel a lot better. Definitely not happy all the time 100%, but definitely happier than I was before.
What about you? Are you living a happy or meaningful life?
P.S. If you like this article check out, Are You Being True To Yourself? Here’s How To Tell