There Are Worse Things Than Not Being Happy

The other day I saw a quote on Facebook: Just because I am laughing, it doesn’t mean I’m happy. Just because I’m smiling, it doesn’t mean I don’t want to cry. I just believe in not emphasizing the negative.

There are worse things than not being happy — living a lie, for example. According to a team of researchers led by Iris Mauss at the University of Denver, “Valuing happiness is not necessarily linked to greater happiness. In fact, under certain conditions, the opposite is true. Under conditions of low (but not high) life stress, the more people valued happiness, the lower were their hedonic balance, psychological well-being, and life satisfaction, and the higher their depression symptoms.”

In other words, living a lie and pretending to be happy is exhausting and stressful and can make you even more unhappy.

Other studies have shown that we are seldom happy in the present. We are happy in retrospect. Think of some of the happy times in your life. Back then, were you aware you were happy? Chances are, you were involved in living and didn’t bother to stop to think how you were feeling. Happiness is elusive. If we go chasing it, we don’t always find it. If we stop chasing it, happiness often finds us. And even if happiness doesn’t find us, being unhappy is not necessary emphasizing the negative.

When my life mate/soul mate died, I had no intention of sharing my unhappiness here on this blog. I’d intended to keep it private, but I became so frustrated with writers whose characters blithely went on with life despite devastating losses, that I figured someone ought to tell the truth about how it feels to lose the one person who connects you to life. Because of my grief writing, I gained support, friends, and a mission — to tell people that it is okay to grieve, that it is important to grieve, and that they will survive. If I had kept my grief to myself and pretended everything was okay in my life, I would have missed out on these positive results, and in the end, I would have been even more unhappy.

It has also been a blessing to be able to reach out to other bereft. Grief is so isolating that it brings comfort to know that others have felt this same sort of all-encompassing loss, and the only way to do that is to be vulnerable and show the hurt. This is not being negative. It is being realistic.

Being realistic sometimes seems pessimistic, sometimes optimistic, but it is neither. It’s seeing the truth of the matter. A pessimist magnifies the negative side of the truth, and the optimist magnifies the positive side, but neither are being realistic. Nor does being realistic adversely affect the outcome of a situation, because a realist knows that no matter how bleak the future looks, there is always a possibility that things will work out.

There is a chance that I will find happiness in the future or it will find me, and if not, well . . . at least I won’t have the stress of living a lie.

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