Happiness is Not a Character Trait

Published: July 17, 2023
Category: Mental HealthMind/Body Well-Being

Often the reason so many people feel unhappy is because they have the false expectation that happiness is a trait that should be a constant presence in their lives. People may think that their unhappiness is a character flaw: “If I only tried harder.” This self-defeating mentality fuels a recurring loop of frustration and self-deprecation. This faulty assumption of expecting to live in a state of constant euphoria and happiness means that people expect to be happy, regardless of what is happening around them. However, scientific findings show that happiness is a mood state which ebbs and flows based on internal and external stimuli. Throughout each day, we respond to these variables and experience a multitude of feeling states from contentedness or joy to frustration or anxiety. 

Understanding that we also have the ability to experience micro-moments of happiness is a useful insight that enables us to better self-regulate our moods. Our brains are wired with an inherent negativity bias as we naturally pay attention to negative stimuli more than positive ones. This built-in survival mechanism has protected us from harm over the millennia: For example, scanning the horizon for predators to prevent being eaten by wild beasts. Today, we have the opportunity to recognize and feel these rumblings and we also possess the ability to identify and choose helpful coping mechanisms to process negative experiences. We’re talking here about those smaller, day-to-day difficulties that are not traumatic or life-altering, but are still challenging and frustrating. Here are several micro-interventions to help bolster your sense of resilience, despite the challenges or setbacks that may be swirling around you. 

1) Take a few deep breaths and ask yourself the following question: “How important is this? Will this be relevant in six months or one year from now? How can I breathe into this moment and let my negative feelings dissipate?” 

2) Feel your feelings but don’t let them hijack your sense of equanimity and calm. This takes practice through mindful meditation, repeating a helpful slogan, or learning to be aware of your feelings and what they are telling you. 

3) Try not to personalize everything, even if it has your name written all over it. If a family member or co-worker gives you a look or says something disparaging, take a moment and realize that, while this behavior is unpleasant and even unacceptable, that it’s probably not personal. You have tremendous power by not picking up the rope and engaging in a tug-of-war or escalating to a fight.

I’m sending you strength and love.

Soaringwords is the power to heal. 

Lisa

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