The pursuit of happiness is the devil in disguise. Despite its truly benevolent nature, happiness (and the pursuit of it) is used as a weapon to draw unsuspecting victims into into doing stupid things. It is also used as a weapon in our consumerist culture to get you to buy stuff. No, this isn’t some crazy conspiracy theory. It’s, unfortunately, the truth and it’s everywhere you look. Advertisements intentionally feed off of our insecurities by showing us images of things we long for so desperately in our lives. They show us how a pair of shoes will win you friends, or how perfume will attract a handsome or beautiful partner or how shampoo will make us feel better about ourselves. Why do we care about any of this? Because we genuinely believe these things will make us happy. So we buy more things and more things in a desperate attempt to avoid what’s truly killing us.
Happiness isn’t something you obtain, it’s something you stumble upon on accident. It isn’t something you deserve to have 24/7. If it were, people wouldn’t be busting their ass to get it. So here’s my paradoxical advice for you. If you want to be happier, be a bit more pessimistic.
Lower Your Expectations
I don’t mean lower your expectations for yourself. By all means, have lofty goals and shoot for the stars! I mean lower your expectations for objects, other people and experiences. Sometimes we let ourselves down in life because we expect too much out of life. Understand that sometimes things really just don’t work out and that is the game of life. We also expect alot out of other people as well. I had to wake up and realize that having a partner doesn’t mean that my troubles are over and that they will be the answer to all my problems. My partner has his own problems and I cannot expect a person to be everything I need them to be. And finally, lower your expectations for objects and things. No, those new pair of shoes will not win you popularity or more attention. They will, however, leave you a wad of money short and possibly a bucket full of guilt.
Be Cynical of Advice
Don’t take everything you hear and read at face value. Just because someone says that some course of action made them happy, that doesn’t mean it will make you happy. Just because some guy said that waking up at 4am everyday made them successful that doesn’t mean that will make you successful. Be skeptical of advice and how realistic they actually are. You can be easily let down and led astray by well meaning advice that is just too far from reality.
Understand How You Behave
Every year we make New Year’s resolutions thinking that some spirit will possess us and we will finally be motivated to cut down on sodas even though you haven’t been able to do so for the last 5 years, but that doesn’t matter anymore because a benevolent spirit possessed you and now you’re going to actually do it! Come on. A spirit would have to possess you, because you and I both know you’re not gonna cut down on nothing. Be honest with yourself and know what you are realistically willing and unwilling to do. Once you do that, the real problem solving can start. For example, I know I needed to do more chores around the house, but I just could NOT get myself to do them. I simply don’t mind clutter and, after some time, I don’t even see the mess. So not only was I unmotivated, I didn’t even see a problem! Until my boyfriend told me how much he hated clutter. I admitted to myself that I have zero motivation to do chores. Once I admitted that, I combined the task with stuff that did motivate me. Like I love listening to audio books and watching British comedies. So I got myself to do the chores because I knew that I’d be continuing a chapter in the epic adventures of Harry Potter!
The key here is that I didn’t try to fight myself or make myself feel bad for not wanting to do chores. I knew that I wouldn’t want to do them and accepted it, then I combated that with something I actually wanted to do.
Have Anxiety? Accept that You Will Be Anxious
If you’re like me, and have crippling anxiety, you know how painful it can be to live with. You anticipate being afraid before anything has occurred and you live your life in fear of what you’re anxiety will do next. Well, I have news that may seem counterproductive and that’s to accept that everything sucks and yes you are going to be afraid. Now what? Accept that sometimes your anxiety is going to creep up on you and you will feel fear when you don’t want to. Accept that yes, that will probably happen from time to time and devise a plan of action if it does. If you do feel your anxiety what do you find works best to calm it? Do you need to take deep breaths, think of calming images of the ocean, sing a song in your head, think of a bunch of funny memes, recite a poem? Yes, you are going to be anxious from time to time, and that’s okay! Don’t try to fight it, because you only end up punching yourself in the stomach.
Keep in mind that I am NOT telling you to become a storm cloud of depression and darkness. I am telling you to make peace with reality. Optimism and pessimism aren’t necessarily antonyms. You can have a pessimistic view of a situation that helps you to understand the reality of the situation your in and you can use that pessimism to optimistically problem solve. If there’s no way you’re gonna be able to cut down on sodas on your own, admit it! Then problem solve a way around it. Enlist a friend to keep you motivated, try some other healthier drinks and see if you prefer those. Watch videos about what soda does to your body. Don’t just stop at the admittance phase. Make the next step forward.
What are your views on happiness? Do you think we can obtain it if we wanted to?