WHY DOES HAPPINESS SEEM SO ELUSIVE AS AN EMOTION?


We’re all taught to believe that happiness is an attainable thing – almost a lifestyle. We tell ourselves that when we are thinner, richer or in love that we will be happy. This misconception is the reason why happiness is elusive. Happiness isn’t a consistent state, it’s more a fleeting feeling that comes over you. It appears when you are sharing a joke with someone you love or watching a butterfly when the sun’s shining. For a special moment you realize you feel really at peace and everything feels right in your world. Sustaining this state isn’t possible though.


Even though the human perception is binary, reality isn’t. So they make an effort to perceive themselves in more complex, fluid, and continuous terms. As they do so, they begin to perceive themselves in terms of extremes, such as pleasure and pain, but also in terms of balance, such as satisfaction. From this point of view, it becomes clear that happiness isn’t pleasure at all, in fact, it is actually synonymous with satisfaction. Happiness has nothing to do with getting more or being better, and everything to do with being satisfied (happy) with what you already have.


We are fooled by the media and Hollywood ideas of romance and happiness but it doesn’t work like that in the real world. I have seen people chase after money, fame and material possessions only to end up even more empty than before. We are confused and incorrect about what we think will make us happy.


Another problem is that our minds have the capacity to predict how we’ll feel in a particular situation.  All the “If I owned…”  “If I could just…” “If they would only…” scenarios get played out in our heads and make it easy to assume that we could be happy given the right circumstances.  Unfortunately, we consistently overvalue our predictions, and tend to think things will make us happier than they actually do.  This over-reliance on faulty prediction sets us up to feel disappointed rather than happy.  Ouch again!


On top of that, we have become a culture full of choices and information.  That becomes problematic when we’re given the opportunity to evaluate options and make choices.  Most proper evaluations examine both sides of each option, highlight the pros and cons of all potential choices.By spending the time to create the pros and cons list, we highlight the negative aspects of whatever choice we make while also highlighting the positive aspects of the alternative choices.  It’s like there’s no winning here.


 So what’s the remedy: Do your best to accept that happiness is simply an emotion not a permanent destination.  Work to visit often but don’t expect to stay.Minimize or eliminate choice wherever you can, then focus on developing genuine gratitude for the choices you’ve made.  Reduce the criticism and judgment and look for all the things you can appreciate. 


by Mahek Chotrani

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