We’re inundated with happiness here in the developed world. Every other tweet in my feed is an inspirational quote, every magazine cover advertises tips for “your happiest self”, the self-help section at Barnes and Noble gets bigger every year, and everywhere, EVERYWHERE we’re reminded to “look at the positives” and “happiness is something you create” and “change your thoughts and you can change your life”.
I don’t mean this to be negative. I like these quotes and I agree with them. But…..I don’t think this obsession with chasing happiness is helping anything.
There are a lot of other emotions out there besides happiness. There’s sadness, there’s anger, there’s ambivalence, there’s exhaustion (it’s def an emotion, trust me). Annoyance, anxiety, fear, grief.
We tend to think of these emotions as “negative”, but guess what? THESE ARE ALL NORMAL HUMAN EMOTIONS.
IT IS NORMAL TO FEEL THESE THINGS. IT IS OKAY TO FEEL THESE THINGS.
Let me repeat that.
It is NORMAL to feel sad. To feel afraid. To feel alone, to feel hopeless, to feel stuck, exhausted, upset. It’s normal to grieve.
And yet we have this constant societal push to seek happiness, to only share the good things that happened in your day. If you express frustration, loneliness, despair, or anger, you’re often told to “look on the bright side”, or “see this as a positive” or “stop complaining and be happy”. And honestly? That never causes anyone who feels distressed to suddenly feel a drive to be happy. All it does is make them feel like their very normal human emotions are not valid, and that they don’t have a right to be feeling these things.
We have such a stigma against what we call “mental health issues” in this country, and I think this contributes to it. People who are feeling depressed, lost, lonely and hopeless – especially those who haven’t suffered what we would define as a “major trauma” or a “loss” – are often left feeling like what they’re going through isn’t valid, that they don’t deserve help. We lose a lot of people that way.
Running away from our emotions, feeling like we don’t “deserve” to feel lonely/depressed/anxious/scared/angry at times, never leads to real happiness. It’s a powerful thing to be able to sit with your emotions, to really feel them, regardless of what they may be.
So really, what I want to say is – if you are struggling with loneliness, with depression, with anxiety, with anger….your emotions are valid. They are real. You have a right to feel them. And if you need help, you deserve to have some real help – not just your facebook friends telling you to “lighten up” or “look on the bright side”. Your feelings are normal, and regardless of what has or hasn’t happened in your life, you deserve to feel what you feel and you deserve real support.
If someone in your life is struggling, sometimes the best thing you can do for them is simply to listen. Advice is wonderful – when it’s sought out. A positive spin on things can be a game changer – when it’s sought out. But allowing someone to freely process their (very normal emotions without interference, judgement, or – quite frankly – suggesting that they should be feeling something else – is usually the most helpful thing you can do for a fellow human.