It’s OK to Not Be OK: Managing Happiness Expectations

happiness expectations

In a world where positive quotes and the pursuit of happiness are in full throttle, sometimes it can add pressure to our well-being when we aren’t “feeling it.” 

In a recent course I took in ACT therapy (Acceptance and Commitment), the instructor mentioned that positive affirmations sometimes worked in adversity to the purpose of saying them. Multiple people experiencing negative emotions were asked if stating a positive affirmation when they were “down” helped change their mood.

Several stated that it made them feel worse because it focused on the fact that they weren’t feeling ok or happy. They felt guilt and shame for not being able to turn it around. 

Destination happiness is not reality. Destination “feeling better” is a more accurate and helpful description for the flow of human experience. Relieving the impact of intense feelings is best attained by going neutral. 

It’s completely normal to feel the ups and downs of emotions. The key is to ACCEPT where you are in the moment and move to a better thought or behavior. 

Here are some ways to relieve the expectation of constant happiness: 

  1. Sit with your emotions- Acknowledge that sometimes you just want to mull over a difficult situation or feeling
  2. Suppression leads to Depression- When we push down negative feelings, we aren’t getting rid of them or working through them, we are saving them for later when they reappear (and they will)
  3. Just Breathe- Meditation and Breathing exercises are helpful to focus on ourselves. Redirecting our thoughts to a place of ease and release allows them to process. Being in the now moment will help to calm the mind from the repetitive narrative that tends to play in our heads. 
  4. Thank Your Mind- This is an exercise in just saying “ok mind, I hear you but I don’t intend to engage.” Example: I want to go on a rollercoaster but I start thinking of all of the reasons I shouldn’t. Say this, “ok mind, thank you, I understand this is uncomfortable but I’m going to try it anyway.”
  5. We’re all in this together- Realize that it’s important for growth to experience “all the feels.”  To feel sadness will give gratitude for joy. To feel fear will add excitement to new challenges. To feel angry gives learning to controlling your inner emotions and letting go of outside influences. 

In short, be gentle with yourself, guide your mind to the better feeling thoughts even if only slightly better. Take it one step at a time. As long as there is forward movement, you are growing and learning. For the moments you feel discouraged, remind yourself you are doing a great job and working to open your mind and love yourself. 

Love and Blessings,