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Dismissing Sadness Will End up Making You Sadder

Dismissing Sadness Will End up Making You Sadder

No one wants to be unhappy. We can mostly accept this as an universal truth. We often actively seek to avoid unhappiness even though it does come for all of us: breakups, school failings, disappointments in personal relationships, frustrations at work.

In the last 5-10 years especially, there’s been an increasing amount of discussion about happiness, the importance of happiness, how to seek happiness, where to locate happiness, and anything else you can think of. The self-help industry is massive — about $11 billion in the U.S. alone.[1] When Disney modernized their theme parks a few years ago, they even called the project “reinventing happiness.”[2] It’s on many minds, and you can find the topic in dozens of TED Talks.

This approach is problematic.

As writer Emily Esfahani Smith has pointed out in a TED Talk, the focus should be less on happiness and more on finding some degree of meaning in your life. Meaning is a mix of purpose and behaviors with intent; it’s akin to finding your passion and yourself.

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One of the problems with this whole discussion is the interplay between sadness and happiness. In a world without sadness, there can’t be happiness either. It’s just a straight line of emotion. How would you even know you’re happy if you’ve never experienced being sad?

Happiness is relative. Think about it in terms of peaks:

    Why is this a peak? Only because of a difference in height between this and everything around. Flat ground isn’t a peak, correct?

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    Happiness and sadness work the same way. Without one, the other can’t be defined.

    When you avoid sadness, then, you reduce happiness in your life too. Life is ultimately about experiencing different aspects and locations. Avoiding sadness often means avoiding experiences. As you avoid sadness, you paradoxically also avoid happiness — and you drown your thinking in things that may not actually happen.

    A better approach is to think about life this way…

      Perfection is essentially unattainable, as is any form of “truly perfect happiness.”

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      This entire concept is called “The Progress Principle“. Celebrating small wins helps you create your own system of instant gratification. Your brain needs to feel happy. And it needs to feel happy often. By looking at life as a journey instead of a short-term goal, you start to see the bigger picture and see the ups and downs as part of the progress.

      Ups and downs are part of the journey

      No one has a perfect life. Everyone has their own challenges and problems.

      When you feel negative, you’re focusing on the current level while the peak level is yet to come. You need to keep your sights on the extended curve.

      Monitor your emotions and rack up small wins along the way

      When you reach a disappointment in life, it’s likely you only see it as a big fluctuation. But in the long-run, it’s a small dip on an upward-trending pathway.

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      Be aware of your everyday emotions, you will realize that you’re happier on some days and sadder on others. A bad day happens only occasionally. Instead of focusing on the unpleasant moment right now, flash back your memory to when you feel happier. This memory keeps you going during your down times.

      Getting started with the Progress Principle

      You can start by tracking your emotions. This will increase self-awareness. Find out more about how to do it here: The Magic of Marking down Your Mood Every Day

      You can also write down your achievements every day, or do a “3-1” model where you write down 3 positive things and 1 constructively negative thing. At the end of a week, you have 21 positives and 7 things to work on. It gives you a good baseline for next week’s progress.

      If you want to stay motivated despite occasional down times, read How to Stay Motivated Even Though You Can’t See Yourself Moving Forward

      Featured photo credit: Alphacolor 13 on Unsplash via decaf.kouhi.me

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      Brian Lee

      Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

      100 Incredible Life Hacks That Make Life So Much Easier 10 Best New Products That People Don’t Know About Book Summary: The Power of Habit in 2 Minutes 1 Minute Book Summary: How To Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less 2 Minutes Book Summary: Thinking Fast and Slow

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      Last Updated on September 18, 2019

      If Money Can’t Buy Happiness, What Can?

      If Money Can’t Buy Happiness, What Can?

      Think of the last time your bought something you really wanted. How did you feel afterwards? It felt good.

        Now, is there something else you really want? Maybe a new laptop, smartphone, or some nice clothes. Buying that thing, whatever it is, will bring you happiness. When you finally have it, you will be excited to try it out.

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              As cliche as it says “money can’t buy happiness,” we feel happy when we buy the things we want. Why is that?

              The Real Reason Why You Are Happy When You Buy Stuff

              Human beings are hardwired to seek instant gratification. You’ve probably heard the phrase instant gratification hundreds of times. To get that thing we want, the moment we want it. This desire for instant gratification came to us as a survival mechanism. I’m not going to talk about instant gratification in details here, if you want to find out more about it, take a look at 5 Ways to Get Over Approval Addiction and Instant Gratification.

              While instant gratification is in human’s nature, we live in a society driven by delayed gratification. Delayed gratification is the desire for something but the inability to get it when you want. In our society, you have to wait for your pay day, your meal at a restaurant, your coffee at Starbucks. When the thing you want finally arrives, you get excited.

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                Your excitement for this thing, the delayed gratification often elicits stronger emotional responses in you than when you get it. This feeling comes from dopamine a chemical that influences the pleasure centers in our brains.[1] When you become excited for something, you are actually enjoying a release of dopamine into our system. The thing you are actually excited for is almost secondary to it.

                Think about it, how did you feel a couple hours after buying something you waited a long time for? It was probably not nearly as good as when you first got it, or when you’re waiting to get it. It’s natural, it’s a part of human nature.

                  In this way the happiness you feel isn’t true happiness. In fact, biologically speaking, you’re just enjoying a blast of dopamine. When this blast of dopamine is gone, you want something new again, which is secretly, more dopamine. This is what that old saying “money can’t buy you happiness” really means.

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                  There is, however, a way in which money can buy you happiness. It’s just not in a way you think.

                  An Alternative to Buying Happiness

                  Recently Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA conducted a study where two groups of people were given $40 each.[2] One group was told to spend it in buying a possession, an object, something they wanted. The other group was told to spend it in ways that would enable them to have more free time, for example, having food delivered to save them from cooking, or hiring a cleaner, instead of cleaning their house themselves. When each participant in the study were to measure their happiness to a 10 point scale, those who spent their money on more free time were almost always one whole point ahead of those who spent their money on stuff.

                  In a sense, they were happier because they brought themselves out of doing something they didn’t want to do. Just buying more stuff, in the long run didn’t have much of an affect on their happiness, when those who spent money on time found an increase in life satisfaction.

                  It was the free time that made people happy.

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                    It was the quality time that contributed more to their happiness, the money was just a tool they used to get more time. But the money ultimately is unnecessary. All that is required is a re-adjustment of how you measure time.

                    Everyone has 24 hours a day. The life expectancy for females is 81.2 years; for males, it’s 76.4 years. Most people have more or less the same time of living. To make every hour, or minute count is the way to create your own happy time. If you are always feeling busy and don’t think you have enough quality time for yourself, you need to make a change to turn things around.

                    To be truly happy, make quality time a true value in your life. Find out how to do so in my other article How to Gain More Time Like Making Money.

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                    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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