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Is happiness always the answer? Tuesday April 26, 2016

My grandfather told me when we he was in his early 90s that he had never been asked if he was happy. He explained he was too busy living to be worried about wondering if he was happy. That was over 35 years ago, so I wonder what he would think about all the books, blogs, websites, conferences, workshops about happiness.

What is this ever increasing emphasis on happiness. There seems to be pressure to be happy, even if something tragic happens we are being told, encouraged to look for the bright side. A recent survey explained that every person surveyed when asked what they want out of life for themselves and their loved ones, answered they wanted to be happy. I was not asked and if I had been I would have answered that I want myself and my loved ones to live a peaceful life.

If people are always questioning if they are happy or not, this can lead people to think they are not trying hard enough and even to feel guilty. A few years ago my friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. She said she could cope with the cancer but what really made her feel guilty and depressed was all the pressure she felt from the medical profession, well-meaning family members and friends, and the growing number of articles on the internet and books about how she should be positive and see the bright side of her illness.

I think other generations did not have so much time to focus on and examine if they were happy.

I do worry that when happiness is the only objective, people who don't achieve it in spite of reading books attending workshops and following advice from friends and internet, may end up more unhappy than before they made choices that they were told would make them happy.

Just in case people think I am becoming a grumpy old woman, I do like to be happy but all the emphasis on it lately as being the only goal makes me feel uneasy. To me being happy is a by-product of being at peace.

What do you think? Do you think there is an over emphasis on happiness or do you think happiness is the goal we should be aiming for in life?

A Moodscope member

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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Anonymous Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 6:29am

Hi Leah. I agree so much with this. I prefer to use the word content rather than happy. The word happy conjures up happy clappy, a state of mind not real and not sustainable. People who say they are aways happy are not being true to themselves. There have been moments when I've felt deliriously happy but it's not a long lasting feeling and as you say the pressure to be happy makes us unhappy. Life is difficult for every one of us in this world. That's as it should be. It's normal. We can feel contentment with our lot in life though. I think that people who say they are happy all the time, are ignoring their true emotions and probably other people's. They are possibly vey dependent people who rely on others to provide happiness. Anyway a good blog Leah and good for you for raising this subject. It will make us feel better which is what Moodscope is all about. Julxx

Leah Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 6:46am

Jul, A thoughtful and honest comment as you always write. You have made an interesting point- how does one define the wordy happy- and I think this does vary from person to person. So people who say they are happy all the time may have a different definition to me. Contentment is good to aim for, at the moment I try not to be unhappy. Happy as an emotion has been taken over by Hallmark cards, advertisers, politicians , motivational speakers, and many others. As usual you have given me lots to ponder. Thanks Jul,xx

Hopeful One Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 6:44am

Hi Leah- many thanks for highlighting this question which I have often asked myself. We value happiness obviously and we spend enormous amounts of time trying to achieve it and are disappointed if we do not achieve it.I believe the problem lies in chasing an emotion which, by its nature, is always temporary. However, when the mind becomes available free from the chatter going on in it ,for example in deep meditation, one realises that lasting happiness is that state a blue sky unsullied by any clouds(our thoughts and feelings).This state is not to be confused with the emotion of happiness which,as I have said before,is only temporary and liable to disappoint.

Here is the Management Lesson number 3.

When the body was first made, all the parts wanted to be Boss. The brain said, "I should be Boss because I control the whole body's responses and functions." The feet said, " We should be Boss as we carry the brain about and get him to where he wants to go. The hands said, "We should be the Boss because we do all the work and earn all the money." And so it went on and on with the heart, the lungs and the eyes until finally the arse hole spoke up. All the parts laughed at the idea of the arse hole being the Boss. So the arse hole went on strike, blocked itself up and refused to work. Within a short time the eyes became crossed, the hands clenched, the feet twitched, the heart and lungs began to panic and the brain fevered. Eventually they all decided that the arse hole should be the Boss, so the motion was passed.

Management Lesson: You don't need brains to be a Boss - any arse hole will do.

Leah Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 6:49am

Thanks Hopeful One. I like your distinction between the state obtained in deep meditation and the emotion of happiness. That will give me more to consider.

g Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 6:59am

brill joke but it hurts to laugh HO

Hopeful One Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 7:10am

Hi g - Capital!I recognise a fellow humourist.

LillyPet Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 8:37am

Very funny HO! LP :)) xx

g Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 6:56am

Good morning Leah , Happiness is a tricky devil if we are looking for it on the outside . Your idea that it is a bi product of a peaceful life is great but one has to know it.
Lots of peacefully living individuals do not find it as being happy as there is a measure of excitement involved in the feeling which cannot be permanent to be of any long lasting value. I have to stop here not to be like one of these books.
Have a nice day. I am up so early because I am quite ill with a nasty flu and a jet leg and my coughing woke me up giving me a tremendous headache , my GP refused to visit to listen to my chest even though I am spitting blood and I feel too cold to venture out of bed even with the heating on so a trip to the surgery is out of the question and there is more but I will not bore you with more facts but one - I do feel happy , however , I am not at peace or content or comfortable - one more reason why we have all these words.

Leah Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 8:10am

g, Thanks so much for taking the time and effort to reply when you are unwell. I hope you improve soon. I find it puzzling that you are sick but feel happy as I am miserable when I am sick. AS I said everyone defines what it is to be happy differently. Take care.

g Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 10:17am

I am miserable too but I know that it will pass like everything. I am happy to be back home with my family and dog and all these memories and pics to share and looking forward to doing things I love and see old friends after seeing so much of the world in such a short period of time and meeting such a variety of peoples- I am happy for having travelled again - each has their own reasons As I wrote before happy comes from within... without effort .. no lessons or books needed but it is only one - my - point of view and I respect other and different ones ....... love and peace. keep on keeping on oh , and it helps to be here - takes mind of pain

Leah Thu, Apr 28th 2016 @ 2:30am

g, thanks so much for explaining your point of view. It makes a lot of sense.

Helen Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 6:59am

I have often pondered this subject and debated it with friends. Mainly trying to define happy. It appears to come in many guises and is a by product of other emotions so shouldn't be used In Isolation as it is you say...the only goal in lif...but must actually be unachievable if sought on its own.

Leah Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 8:11am

Thanks Helen for your comments. I wonder if it is a matter of definition and that everyone has a different idea of what it is to be happy.

John Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 7:41am

I study strength-based psychology or character development so I read this post with keen interest. I feel all of this new emphasis on happiness is simply the latest fad-topic. Much of it is promotion for a book, conference, workshop, etc. Why pay it much mind?
One key piece is to know that one decides what is of value. It's not in headlines nor does it originate with most popular talk show hosts. It is inside each of use. For you it may be peaceful. For others happiness works. Others may delegate this to a culture or religion or work organization, but this can always be rescinded (the person can find new values and leave).
For me right now I seek justice and fairness, which I cannot achieve alone. It requires others and it requires some practice and policy changes. I'm happy enough to not stop working for these because I feel the human world would be a better, kinder place with more of these qualities.
A few years ago I discovered a very simple practice that took me to a state of amazing bliss. My body just radiated energy and I felt my touch alone could heal. I also knew that bliss would not last and that would be okay. It's not meant to last, perhaps. Yet, when the conditions are right again, maybe I'll experience a return. In the mean time, I do the mundane things life requires.

Leah Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 8:13am

John, Thanks for your informative reply.The idea of what one values does interest me. I think achieving bliss is different to achieving happiness.

LillyPet Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 8:36am

Hi John I'd like to know about that simple practice! LP :)

Leah Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 10:18am

Lillypet, you are braver than me!!!

Adrian Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 7:45am

Great blog Leah- very thoughtful.

I agree that happiness is not a goal in itself. Rather a by-product of following other more meaningful personal goals.
A x

Leah Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 8:14am

Adrian, Thanks for your comment. I agree but others may disagree.

Sarah Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 7:56am

Hi Leah, thank you for your interesting blog today. My thoughts are, that happiness is a modern concept, people have and do manage to live without it. Having said that, I feel it's important to recognise it, eg in the film, Memoirs of a Geisha there's a scene where they are standing underneath some cherry blossom and she says, "I feel so happy " he then says, " Hold on to that thought because it won't last " I think he was saying you can't expect happiness but when it comes it's precious. These are just my thoughts. Sarah ( yellow rose )

Leah Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 8:16am

Sarah, Thanks for your interesting comment. The idea that you can't expect happiness but when it comes is one I will give more consideration.

Di Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 8:32am

I agree with you Leah, in fact being with lots of people that are hyper happy pulled me down big time. Much more important to be true to ourselves, peaceful with ourselves and as positive as possible in adverse circumstances. Peace is top of my list.

Leah Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 10:19am

Di, Thanks Di. I think you are right that it is important to be true to ourselves and not affected by current psychological theories.

Richard Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 8:34am

Peace & Love,

Leah Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 10:20am

Thanks Richard. They are such important qualities.

LillyPet Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 8:34am

Hi Leah,
I don't strive for happiness, I strive to avoid unhappiness. Oddly, feeling ok makes me feel grateful, relived and somewhat happy while I think about it. Just remaining steady is my main focus.
I don't strive for happiness but when I feel it, it's a bonus, lovely blessing.
I believe and respect people who say they are (in general) happily married, or happy being single, happy with their lot etc
I agree with you, that to struggle to seek a "happily ever after" life seems naive, maybe not many people do.
There is something unsettling about companies making a profit out of a false concept. Some of it must be of value though.
I do think that the brain is hard wired to avoid pain and want pleasure.
I dont like feeling judged or guilty. I dont like pressure either. Ideas are out there to be chosen or not but shouldnt be forced on to others. That could just cause feelings of inadequacy and resistance.
Seeing children happy makes me feel really happy, maybe because I was so often sad and scared as a child.
Thanks for a thought provoking blog Leah. I think I've taken this happiness buisness a bit too seriously! It's a bright and sunny day in London, a good start for me :) Good wishes to all. LP xx

Leah Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 10:25am

Lillypet, As I wrote before like you, I try unhappy. Thanks for your thoughtful comments and for taking the time to consider it in detail. I agree seeing children laugh makes me happy while I watch them.Take care

Trudi Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 8:37am

What a thought provoking post, in a completely good way. I hadn't thought of the pursuit of happiness in this way, and, if asked, I would say I appreciate being 'ordinary' after a rather turbulent past. By this I realise I mean peaceful and content - thanks for your post.

Leah Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 10:26am

Thanks Trudi for your kind words and for sharing your ideas.

Judith Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 8:59am

Thank you Leah. I have been looking for a way to explain my outlook on life to friends and family and you have nailed it for me.

Leah Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 10:27am

Judith, That is so kind and I am glad I have helped in some small way.

Lexi Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 8:59am

Hi Leah, thanks for a great post today. I used to feel guilty for not being happy. I would put so much pressure on myself because I didn't seem happy in relation to "other people". Since I wasn't happy - whatever the hell that meant - I would never achieve peace. It took me a long time to find peace with myself and like others that have commented I now concentrate more on peace and contentment rather than happiness. I do find myself smiling a lot more lately and I think to myself "I am happy right now" but I don't think of happiness in relation to others anymore. It's a place within me that is constantly changing and the key is to always think in terms of me, and not others. xo Lexi

Leah Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 10:29am

Lexi, Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I find it so helpful to read what pothers have been through. I also use "I am happy right now" and I even say but not too happy!

The librarian Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 9:36am

Brilliant blog - thank you, Leah! Life is not all positive or negative - there is so much else in between and learning to live with it all with equanimity is healthy.

Leah Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 10:34am

The librarian, thanks for your words'learning to live with equanimity'that will give me lots to think about.

Salt Water Mum Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 10:28am

Thank you Leah.

And i like that moment under the cherry blossom tree, Sarah.

I'll share another quote if I may about happiness - from the Master, Mahatma Gandhi -
'Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony...'

And from the wonderfully witty pen of Oscar Wilde -
'Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go...' !!!


Leah Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 10:35am

Thanks SWM, those quotes make me smile and think- a good combination.

Skyblue Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 12:27pm

Thanks for the Ghandi quote, SWM. Perfect. xx

Mary Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 4:24pm

Thanks for the Oscar Wilde quote, I needed that today.

Leah Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 10:33pm

I think one always needs an Oscar Wilde quote, they help me every day had such a witty mind.

Anonymous Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 11:11am

I agree that chasing happiness can lead to yet another guilt trip - why am I not happy when I'm supposed to be! Inner calm and a sense of stability is the nearest I can get to what I think is happinees. It's too personal a feeling for anyone to be able to quantify or dictate what happiness means to each and everyone of us.
In the same way, I differentiate between fun and pleasure. Fun is temporary. Pleasure is longer-lasting and requires a complex combination of postive elements coming together in one's life.

Leah Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 11:23am

Anon, Thanks for your thoughtful comments.An inner sense of stability is something worth aiming for. Your distinction between fun and pleasure is interesting. I would think both are temporary but fun is more exciting. As I wrote before we all define emotions in our own ways and that determines our way of seeing life.

Zareen Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 11:42am

Hi Leah, I totally share your views on this relentless pursuit of happiness. It puts an enormous pressure on people to remain cheerful always. Cheerfulness can become a mask hiding the turbulence that we sometimes might feel.

Leah Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 11:48am

Zareen, Thanks for your comments. The mask of cheerfulness can be a trap for the person themselves and for their friends and family who believe everything is ok.

Skyblue Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 12:26pm

Hi Leah, great blog! Happiness involves peace of heart and mind and is usually always, for me anyway, tied up with gratitude. And alignment with one's spirit and purpose, even in small everyday ways. Love SWM's Ghandi quote 'Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony...' Depression is so horrid because it wipes out that alignmnent. Thank you, Leah. xx

Leah Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 10:08pm

Skyblue, Thanks for explaining that for you happiness is tied up with gratitude. Yes depression does wipe out the harmony. You have given me more to consider.

Rachel Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 2:32pm

Hi Leah thank you for your blog. I think permanent happiness is a myth. Also it is normal to feel a range of emotions depending on who we are, what's going on in our lives and what support we have or don't have. I have had some terrible news lately, I won't be able to have children and have been given the advice that "I should be happy as I am. This from someone who has children. I don't think I will be happy for a long time if ever but I am grieving

Frankie Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 8:20pm

Rachel, I feel so sorry for you; grieving is entirely natural and appropriate at the moment. And yes, so true - it is normal to feel a range of emotions ... I have lit a candle for you this evening. Frankie

Leah Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 10:13pm

Rachel, Thank you for being so honest. I think people often feel awkward at other's terrible news and have no idea of what to say and say something totally inappropriate. I am so sorry and also feel grieving is the right thing as you struggle with your news.Let us know how you are doing when you feel up to it as I will be thinking of you.

Leah Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 10:14pm

Frankie, Thanks for your kind words to Rachel.

Rachel Wed, Apr 27th 2016 @ 8:08pm

Thank you Frankie for your kind words. Lighting a candle is very thoughtful of you and appreciated x

Rachel Wed, Apr 27th 2016 @ 8:09pm

Thank you Leah x

the room above the garage Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 3:29pm

Hello Leah, what an interesting thought you've given me. I think you are spot on, and I hadn't thought about it before! Like you I'm aiming at being peaceful and if happiness arrives beside it then so be it. But in pockets definitely not a constant. Thank you! Love ratg xx.

Leah Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 10:15pm

tratg, How are you going? Thanks for taking time to comment. Pockets of happiness is a lovely image. Thanks Leah xx

Mary Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 4:29pm

Being in a place of pain at present, this post is most opportune. Happiness is caught in a moment, but contentment lasts a lifetime. If I look at what causes unhappiness for me, it is loss and a sense of failure. Success does not cause happiness, it merely makes the unhappiness abate temporarily. And failure depends always on one's point of view. For me it is important to remember that cherry blossoms will return again another year, even if they have been stripped from the tree by hail and icy winds this year. And - as Caroline has just asked for more blogs - prepare for one on Cherry Blossoms...

Leah Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 10:17pm

Mary, Thanks for the wonderful picture of cherry blossoms- delightful.I can relate to your reply.

Hazel Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 6:08pm

Really like today's thoughtprovoking message. And I look forward to more on cherry blossom. I look forward to it each year. I planted a flowering cherry to commemorate my first son who only lived 27 hours. By the time the blossom has finished there's lots of other things in the garden to do and to admire.

Frankie Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 8:22pm

Thinking of you and your son this evening Hazel; candle burns brightly ... Frankie

Leah Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 10:20pm

Hazel, Thanks for sharing your experience. The custom of planting a tree in memory of a loved one is common to cultures and the cheery is a fiitng plant.

Leah Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 10:21pm

FRankie, Candles and trees are also ways to remember loved ones. Thanks

Frankie Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 8:24pm

Hi Leah - I think Jul has it right - I too look for contentment; and peace of mind and heart... happiness is a by product of that ... Frankie

Leah Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 10:22pm

Frankie, Yes contentment and peace of mind and heart are qualities to aim for. Thanks for all your posts.

The Gardener Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 8:24pm

I am flumoxed - could not define hapiness - money,health,love, success? I am 'seeing' happy moments. Walking along a beautiful beach in australia, alone, noise of sea, absolutely NO influence or interference from other people. Lying, lazily, on a day bed in our lovely first garden, three boys happy in their pursuits - there were probably yells and screams 10 minutes later - but the picture shows 3 happy, better, contented people.

Leah Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 10:23pm

Gardener, Thanks for writing about your happy moments. It doesn't matter that there were yells later you remember a moment of 3 happy boys and that is precious.

The Gardener Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 8:28pm

I am flumoxed - could not define hapiness - money,health,love, success? I am 'seeing' happy moments. Walking along a beautiful beach in australia, alone, noise of sea, absolutely NO influence or interference from other people. Lying, lazily, on a day bed in our lovely first garden, three boys happy in their pursuits - there were probably yells and screams 10 minutes later - but the picture shows 3 happy, better, contented people.

Leah Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 10:25pm

Gardener, I live near beaches as you describe where I can walk with no other humans around and just listen to the waves. 't get there as often as I'd like but will try to in future. Thanks for reminding me what I have so nearby.

The Gardener Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 8:32pm

Not happy with computers. Lovely photo 6 years old girl wallowing in the disgusting grey, slimy sand all round the |Mont st Michel. Happy as a sandboy? Blissful, her whole body says so. Could one say contment is a state to aim for, 'happiness' is transitory? Bit rubbishy again - listening to Mozart and trying to ignore my poor husbands illogical demands - I have a glorious sight - nasturtiums, self-sown, yellow, which have completely colonised a wall - they are cheerful and obviously happy in their chosen position.

Leah Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 10:27pm

Gardener, I just love what you wrote about the flowers-made me smile. "nasturtiums, self-sown, yellow, which have completely colonised a wall - they are cheerful and obviously happy in their chosen position."

martine Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 8:48pm

Agreed. To find inner peace in yourself is the ultimate feeling of "happiness" for me.(in this crazy, chaotic world).

Leah Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 10:28pm

Martine, Thanks, ck is to find that inner peace in a world full of distractions.

martine Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 8:56pm

Finding inner peace within yourself is feeling content with who you are inside rather than whats expected from you from all the outsiders, "internets and husbands etc" Basic things in nature helps to feel a sense of peace in myself and brings me back to feeling grateful for the real beauty in life, helping me find that inner peace in myself. I think happiness is far overrated too! I am enjoying the overcast rainy weather now! ):Hope youre all enjoying whatever you get up to now.!

Leah Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 10:30pm

Martine, Nature is important in helping us gain peace and perspective . Thank you for reminding us.

Leah Tue, Apr 26th 2016 @ 10:39pm

I want to thank everyone who has read my blog, those who have commented, those who may comment and those who have thought about the ideas from all the wonderful comments. I have been touched by all the words people have written.
I know there are people struggling now, some of whom we might know their pen names, and many others we don't know, but all of whom are in pain. My thoughts are with you all.
I thank Moodscope for giving us this forum to exchange ideas.

Caroline Ashcroft Moodscope Wed, Apr 27th 2016 @ 12:35am

No, Thank you Leah. Thank you for writing such thought provoking blogs and thanks everyone else for your thoughts and comments. So interesting. Carolinex

Anonymous Wed, Apr 27th 2016 @ 12:07am

LEAH THANK YOU from across the ocean! A thousand light bulbs popped in my head this morning as I read your thoughts. YES YES YES time to step away from manufactured pressure and unrealistic goals. Release the pack mentality. Who knows what another persons genuine happiness is? In my experience it changes depending on mood, age, season, professional & personal circumstances & geographic location. I'm focusing on Acceptance and Peace ... it's not easy but I see progress in fits and starts! I hold dear the sentiments of Sister Julien of Norwich (apologies if misquoted!) "All's Well and All Manner of Things Will Be Well" WHEN all will be well is not up to me, but belief in all WILL be well allows for pockets of peace and easier breathing. Walk Good.

Leah Wed, Apr 27th 2016 @ 1:07am

Anon 12.07am, Thanks for your insightful comments. I think focusing on acceptance and peace is a good start. I will try with the acceptance something I have had trouble with in the past.

Anonymous Wed, Apr 27th 2016 @ 12:29am

Leah, this is a wonderful nudge of a post. I spent much of my late teens and early 20s trying to figure out what "happiness" really was, and how to feel it. I was in such deep mental distress that the concept felt foreign, and everyone's definitions seemed so ill-fitting. I've been lucky to claw my way out of much of that hole, and I've felt dazzling joy from time to time, but "happy" can still be a slippery beast. For me, "contentment" is a more sustainable thing to chase. Finding the balance between productivity and self-care or rest. Having reasonable expectations of myself and others. In the sweet spot there, I find that contentment with life feels a good fit for "happy". Chasing the fantastical phrase only ever seems to encourage a sense of judgement and in the end, unhappiness.

Leah Wed, Apr 27th 2016 @ 1:09am

Anon 12.29am, There is much in your writing I can relate to. Thanks for sharing your ideas and experience. Having reasonable expectations is something I have struggled with in the past but can see it is something worth aiming for.

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