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  • Victoria Applegarth

Why It Is Ok Not To Feel Happy All The Time

© Illustration by INJECTION - Alicia Lupieri

As we celebrate International Day of Happiness, we reflect on the dangers of pursuing happiness and why it is ok not to feel happy all the time.

First held in 2013, March 20th marks the United Nations ‘International Day of Happiness’, an annual celebration that seeks to increase understanding on the benefit of happiness in one’s life as well as the general significance it can have on a person’s well-being. Specifically, this year’s theme is centered on the notion of ‘Build Back Better.’ For what seems like eternity, we have been unable to get together with our families and friends due to the never-ending cycle of lockdowns and other pandemic-related norms. As a consequence, happiness has, in the most part, been at an all-time low and why this year strives to reach global recovery.

So, as COVID restrictions finally start to lift and life begins to return to normality, why is it that I cannot be happy 24/7? Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could walk around grinning in a perpetual mode of blissfulness. What I have finally learnt, however, is that it’s just not that simple; happiness is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Why? - Funnily enough, we aren’t robots. We cannot simply switch ourselves off when emotions, such as grief, sadness or anger hit. Whilst ‘motivational’ Instagrammers suggest that we expel all negative notions and self help guides assert that they supply the secrets to everlasting positivity, it is irrational to assume that these methods will work. Contrary to our culture’s bias, it’s perfectly natural, even healthy, to encounter a plethora of emotions from anxiety and fear to loneliness and jealousy. Whilst these may feel unpleasant, they have both a purpose and function and holding onto these can actually be a massive obstruction to happiness itself. In fact, practicing psychologist and Harvard lecturer, Holly Parker, told Bustle that: "If our goal is to be happy all of the time, then we block ourselves from vital elements of the human experience that help us grow."

In addition, I, along with most of society, have found myself in a thought process that associates happiness with purely the completion of goals. I frequently think “When I reach this target or obtain this, only then will I truly be happy.” Often, this objective is in pursuit of a new job, a specific amount of money, or great notoriety that I want. Whilst goal setting can, in the most part, be very productive, this specific mindset is dangerous, indicating that the path to fulfillment is not so linear. It just goes to show that instead of viewing happiness as a destination, we should see it as dotted throughout the journey. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said:

“Happiness is not a goal, it is a by-product. Paradoxically, the one sure way not to be happy is deliberately to map out a way of life in which one would please oneself completely and exclusively.”

Happiness. - You know it when you feel it, and you definitely know it when you don’t, and it is ok to feel this spectrum of emotions. But being happy is a human right and is worth celebrating, so as we commemorate ‘International Happiness Day’, allow yourself to be in the moment and to be present in the now. Life is inherently messy, complicated and fast paced, but try and find joy in the little things, whether that be going for a stroll, catching up with a loved one or making your favorite meal. Possibly, the most crucial message is that living a great life isn’t just about being happy, but rather is about being true to who we are, and this incorporates happiness and sadness, love and conflict and pleasure and pain.


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