As the Happyologist®, the most common question I get asked is, "Are you always happy?". To this, I confidently respond, "No, I'm human." It took me years to fully understand this question and to respond to it confidently. Why? Because I, just like the rest of society, had totally misunderstood what happiness is.
I thought that being happy is all about smiling and experiencing bliss. I believed being happy meant never experiencing negative emotions. I thought I was supposed to be in a happy state of mind 24 hours a day seven days a week, and express it in an extroverted manner wherever I went. To experience this happy state of mind, I was supposed to be constantly succeeding at what I was doing and reach every single one of my goals in record time. This formula for having a never-ending happy state of mind is supposedly what we are all meant to follow.
In truth, none of these statements are true, but somehow they have become some of the most popularised happiness myths out there. Yet, they do you a big disservice: they hold your happiness back.
I admit I used to believe in every single one of these myths. Every time I felt low in my mood, I thought there was something wrong with me. I would try to fight it or hide it which made me feel even worse. I thought being happy was the ultimate purpose in life, and I thought something was wrong with me when I was unhappy. It wasn't until I discovered positive psychology, the science of happiness and human performance, and completed a Masters of Science in it, that I started to understand what happiness is.
Happiness is much more than a simple smile. It's not about jumping for joy 24 hours a day every day of the week. If you did that, you might be on the edge of a mental illness called mania, defined as being in a constant state of euphoria and excitement. Happiness is the experience of all kinds of positive emotions like pride, hope and awe. It is even deep-felt serenity, gratitude and love. Happiness even includes negative emotions such as sadness, anger and fear. Why? Because happiness is about having the full human experience, and negative emotions are a big part of that. They play an important role in living a happy, healthy life, and prove to you that you can feel.
Negative emotions protect you from danger, show you that you care, and alert you if you are about to do something that's not true to you. Happiness is being able to manage all your emotions, both positive and negative, in a balanced way. This same idea of balance needs to be translated into what we know about success.
We assume success is what fuels happiness, yet it is more the other way around: happiness fuels success. Yes, you do feel happy and proud when you reach a goal - and you should! But this boosts your happiness only momentarily, as before long you end up back at the same state you were in before. Happiness, when created daily in a holistic way, fuels your productivity, boosts creativity, nourishes social relationships and even improves your health on a consistent basis.
But there is a catch...there is no 'one size fits all' formula for happiness. No right or wrong way to go about it. Yes, there are behaviours, such as kindness, and mindsets, like optimism, that improve your likelihood of feeling happy. However, how you go about acting out these behaviours or engaging with these mindsets is up to you. Why? Because the only way to welcome happiness in is to be your real, authentic self.
Own up to your values, use your natural strengths, and appreciate what you have. These are the things that make you you and these are the things that make happiness happen for you. When you're confident in who you are, you're confident in living a life that is true to you. Do the things that are meaningful to you, not the things you think you should do. Do the things that give you joy, not the things that take it away from you. Take the adventures that excite you, not the paths that crush your soul.
Simply put, make happiness your own.