If I look at the photos on instagram of various people, they are all perennially overjoyed and they are all always doing super cool activities. But sometimes I ask myself: will there really be all this constant happiness behind those dazzling smiles?
The whole world is perpetually happy, and am I the only one with ups and downs (lower and lower, to be honest)?
Apparently not. Reading the most updated statistics, I discovered that in Italy people with depression are around 3 million, and the situation is getting worse in the rest of Europe. In short, all this perennial happiness does not seem to be all that authentic.
And then perhaps we just have to take note of the fact that we cannot always be happy and content. Not even in the movies, after all, do we see protagonists without problems … or nobody would watch them!
But why is it normal not to always be happy? Here are some reasons we may not have expected:
1. A Neurobiological Question
Among other reasons, it seems that one cannot always be happy also because some components of happiness are inscribed in one’s genetic makeup, and therefore cannot be subjected to conscious control. This explains why some people appear happier in themselves than others.
“People have different levels of happiness, this is normal,” explains Alex Korb, Ph.D., a researcher at UCLA and author of the book “Going Up The Spiral: How Neuroscience Can Reverse The Course Of Depression, One Small Step To Time”. Some people’s brains are more responsive to positive events than negative ones and vice versa. These differences explain why some people tend to feel happier for a longer time than others.
2. All Emotions Are Useful
Sometimes the idea circulates that there are emotions considered “positive” and others considered “negative”, and therefore to be avoided. What we must understand, however, is that all the emotions experienced are not only perfectly normal, but also essential for our survival, as each one has a specific purpose and specific functions. Just think, for example, that if our ancestors hadn’t experienced anxiety (one of the emotions we hate most), we wouldn’t even be here talking about it. So it is important to experience the full range of emotional states, not only to be able to feel that you are living fully, but even to survive. Instead, our expectation is to be able to experience only the most pleasant and positive emotions. The presence of this expectation, connected to the need to experience constant happiness, itself becomes an integral part of the problem.
If you expect to always be happy, any moment in which you experience an emotion other than happiness becomes unbearable
3. The Negative Power of Social Comparisons
Social confrontation is another reason why we don’t jump for joy every day. The problem is that we almost feel “obliged to always be happy”, because this is how others seem to us. This, of course, comes with a fair amount of personal dissatisfaction and unhappiness. It is social media, in particular, that influence the expectation of the sense of constant happiness. Although it can be understood that these expectations are excessive compared to real possibilities, there is a tendency to be negatively affected.
Whenever we look at photos posted by our “friends” on Facebook (people with whom we probably have no connection) we unconsciously tend to compare our inner emotional state to the way they (outwardly) appear to us. In this way, moreover, the perception of disconnection from others increases and this, according to an inevitable vicious circle, only increases our sense of frustration and personal irritation.
Tips on Happiness
The fact that we cannot always be happy does not mean that we are automatically doomed to cosmic pessimism. Fortunately, there are many ways to be happy. The important thing is to take things with the right amount of rationality and awareness. Here are some tips, natural consequences of what we have said so far:
#1 Nothing compares
We must get rid of the need to make comparisons with others. Let’s think about the activity of a running athlete, focused on reaching his personal best. Similarly, you can set your own standards for desired levels of happiness and focus on achieving them, without letting the lives of others act as a distraction.
#2 Real relationships
Every so often, let’s disconnect from the network. Technology and social networks play a very important role in our lives, but we cannot be happy without the possibility of feeling a genuine human connection with other people
The key word? Acceptance! Since we are human, we are bound to experience the full range of emotions intended for us. There will be moments of sadness, anxiety, anguish, as well as moments of surprise, joy and euphoria. It is simply our experience, moment by moment, and we cannot help but accept it as such.
#4 Feel Gratitude
Let’s focus on the dimensions of life for which we feel a sense of gratitude and gratitude towards others. Sometimes it is enough to pause for a moment to reflect, or take a few minutes to make a list, to be surprised at how many things we take for granted in our lives and for which we should be grateful.
#5 Clear goals
It is also necessary to establish personal long-term goals. Feeling that we have a purpose in life – that is with respect to the people around us, with respect to a personal cause that is perceived as important, with respect to a job or a religion – allows us not to be excessively affected by any daily discouragement and helps to mitigate any immediate emotional fluctuations.
Let’s Pull The Sums
No one will ever reach a perennial state of euphoric happiness. It is important to know that there is nothing wrong with periodically feeling down in the dumps. Frustration, anger and sadness, like all other emotions, are part of the normal fullness of life.
Living in a world where we tend to believe that we have to be happy 24/7, indeed, can lead to the opposite effect.
Nevertheless, if you feel excessively low spirits in your life, it is important to recognize the difference between “mediocre” levels of happiness and the onset of a real depression. Continuously feeling sad, anxious or empty for a period of more than 2-3 months a year, could be a sign that should not be underestimated to seek professional help.