“Just be positive!” they say.
“I’m trying,” you reply weakly.
And you are. You’re trying. You’re thinking happy thoughts but they’re not really making you happy. It begins to feel like failure and you wonder if maybe you’re just not meant to be happy. Other people are making it look so easy, gliding through life on thoughts of puppies and flowers.
The thing is, positivity is not happiness. They are separate concepts. Happiness is a feeling, positivity is a mindset. Cultivating a positive outlook is much more sustainable than relying on the feeling of happiness to get through life. You don’t have to be happy all the time. In fact, you are not going to be happy all the time. That is normal and healthy and okay.
Unfortunately, there is a cultural myth that happiness is our ‘default mode’. We are subtly told that we’re meant to be happy all the time and that every second we aren’t blissfully happy is some kind of failure. This is an impossible standard and it’s a waste of time to strive for it.
As a healthy human being you are meant to experience a variety of emotions, from anger and sadness to happiness and joy. Too long in either end of the spectrum often isn’t pretty; ‘dangerous risk taking’ and irrational behaviour are attributed to both high and low moods.
Somewhere in the middle, however, there is contentedness. I always strive to be content. It is a solid middle ground that you can always come back to after feeling some of those stronger emotions, while still being in the ‘positive zone’. When content we feel grateful and calm and rested. It is relaxing and natural, and the best state for productivity.
Positivity isn’t about forcing yourself to feel happy and joyous about everything. If you are prancing around with a giant smile saying “HELLO FLOWERS! HELLO SUN! HELLO WORLD I LOVE YOU!!!” all the time, you’re probably just going to get tired and bored.
We experience a range of emotions because they help us stay safe and healthy. Some days the sun is just way too hot and it makes you grumpy. Some days everyone is annoying you because you need some peace and quiet. You might cry everyday after a break up or a loss because you are sad. It’s all normal until you’re spending too long in the extremes and it’s having a negative impact on the rest of your life (please see a doctor in this case).
Everyday Mindfulness recently said on Twitter:
The things we do to avoid or try to cope with feeling negative emotions may be more counterproductive than the emotions. #mindfulness
— Everyday Mindfulness (@mindfuleveryday) February 15, 2015
How true! Attempting to control how we feel because we believe we “should” be feeling a different way is just silly. Emotions are organic. Let them be. Life is going to make you feel lots of different things, and positivity simply frames your overall mindset so that you can cope a bit better.