Happiness challenge “may lead to sadness”

Happiness Cannot Lead to Sadness

How the truth about happiness is obvious

by Cindy Teevens

A report on CBC news says that, “focusing on what makes you smile for 100 days is full of paradox.”

The article continues, “The happiness challenge is based on the premise that happiness is a choice. It asks participants to submit a photo every day of what made them happy, without trying to make others jealous.”

But the 100happydays website says that, “71% of people who tried to complete this challenge failed and quoted lack of time as the main reason.” The site blames and goads the participants, saying, “These people simply did not have time to be happy. Do you?” But that is not what the people said. I hold that it’s not due to lack of time – it doesn’t take any more time to be happy than unhappy. Although it does take more time to take a picture and upload it. Happiness is not in uploading a photo. Based on this wildly skewed statistic (but a good grabbing headline), we have this CBC article.

The article tries to explain, holding that self-affirmations, “tend to backfire for those with low self-esteem.”

The reporter makes the leap from recognizing a good feeling moment with a photograph to self-affirmations, concluding the former doesn’t work because of the unrelated latter. Yes, self-affirmations, which is telling yourself thoughts which are often not true and which you don’t necessarily believe (and especially when feeling bad), can backfire.

But taking a gratitude photo a day is not unlike gratitude journaling once a day, which is being grateful for what is, and that is entirely different from saying things like you are rich when your bank account is empty, or that you are smart when you truly don’t believe you are smart. The thoughts that can come with affirmations, like, “it’s not true, it’s not real, I actually have nothing and am a failure,” can be excruciating, and often the harder you try, the more you feel like a fraud, and the worse you feel.

Like all mass media articles on happiness, an unconscious assumption is made in this article that happiness has a cause, and the cause is a person, a thing, or an event. Statements based on that assumption go under the radar, and this painful belief is caught like a virus by everyone else.

Our whole of society’s approach to happiness is fundamentally flawed, from the seekers to almost all of the happiness experts. The proof is in this article itself, which has four instances of the false and painful belief that things, people, or events “make” us happy or unhappy.  I call it “the happiness lie,” and this mass epidemic is responsible for our astronomically rising stress, anxiety, depression, drug use, and suicide rates.

#1 instance of the happiness lie

According to the article, regarding a teacher doing something similar to the happiness challenge with a class, the reporter publishes that, “spending time with family, participating in sports, and reflecting on friendships were popular sources of happiness for the students.”

Notice the belief that things, people, or events, are the source and cause of our happiness. This is what the students believe, what they tell the teacher, who tells the reporter. The reporter tells the world, which includes the teachers, the parents, the students, etc… and everyone runs around perpetually, like mice on a wheel, trying to find, get, and keep the things that “make” them happy.

#2 instance of the happiness lie

The happiness challenge itself, being fundamentally flawed with the happiness lie, is doomed. Their website asks participants to submit a photo of things of that “makes them happy.” This is certainly bound to fail. People can think all manner of painful things before or afterwards, like, “One measly little happiness moment a day? Is this as good as it gets?”

(And rightly so. NO! This is not as good as it gets. There is more. Much more.)

Notice that the “is this is as good as it gets?” experience is coming after the happy “kodak-moment,” which is fleeting, and there can be many of these painful thoughts and experiences in a succession before, during, or after.

The potential to feel bad or sad or suffer is there no matter what you are doing. You can walk through a luscious garden equally in misery as in joy. There are happy and content poor people, and there are rich people who suffer so much they commit suicide. The happiness lie is so blatantly obvious that once you start to see it, you will wonder how it was ever missed. (It makes sense that the obvious would or could be missed, however.)

#3 instance of the happiness lie

The CBC reporter cites Jamie Gruman, the chair of the Canadian Positive Psychology Association, as believing that maybe a hundred days is too long, and that is why it fails for many, because people can “fall off the wagon and feel bad about that.” So there we have it again, the belief that things, people, or events “make” us happy or unhappy.

Consider that looking for the odd moment here and there when we are happy, so that we can take a picture of it, could conversely mean that the rest the time we are not happy. Or not “very” happy. Now there is another opportunity to suffer. Also note that stopping to take a picture can be a kind of happiness-interruptus.

#4 instance of the happiness lie

This one comes from another teacher, supporting the belief that things make you happy, “I wanted them to see that it wasn’t just the big trips that you take or the electronics that you buy, but it’s the little things every day that make you happy.”

It’s still a thing. It’s still some other thing, outside of you, and all things come and go. This mental (or physical) object-pursuit of happiness is a trap. The other obvious and logical problem with the happiness lie is that if something can make you happy, it can make you unhappy. Now we are at risk and need to be on guard to protect and preserve our source of happiness. Exhausting.

What concerns me is that these are teachers. The happiness lie is what generations have been told that makes you unhappy. And it seems we are still teaching it to the next generation right now. Of course, the most powerful teacher is the role model at home. What are you consciously and unconsciously saying to your children about happiness? Are we still imparting the idea, “You can be happy when…”?

Closer to the truth in this article was the quote from Ulrich Schimmack, psychology professor at the University of Toronto (where he is researching the scientific understanding of happiness). Ulrich quoted Eleanor Roosevelt as having said, “happiness is not a goal, it’s a byproduct,” adding “Quite a few people have noted that actively pursuing happiness might actually be counterproductive.”

That is absolutely true when you pursue “object-happiness,” a.k.a the happiness lie; the belief that things, people, or events “make” you happy, because they always come and go, and you are at the mercy of change. So then we try to prevent change, and try to control things and people, and that gets uglier.

The idea though that happiness is a byproduct still implies that things, people, or events cause it.

Actively pursuing happiness implies you don’t have it, that it’s somewhere “out there,” separate from you, and that you have to do or gain or be something (that you don’t have, or are not) in order to get it. That is misery.

Happiness is not a goal and it’s not a byproduct–it is your natural state. You don’t need a thing to be happy, you need some thing to be unhappy, like an unhappy thought you are believing. Looking for happiness in some other thing person place or time, you overlook the only place happiness ever is: here and now within you. Happiness is an immediate free-for-all. Just learn how to not block it.

If pursuing happiness means loving happiness for the sake of happiness itself, and nothing else, then that pursuit cannot fail. In fact, it can result in true and lasting happiness (which is not the pursuit of things, but freedom from things, from needing or wanting things, people, or events, which is the cause of unhappiness)–and even peace, love and bliss beyond what you have ever experienced!

I know this is true because that is exactly what happened to me. The reason it is possible to be as shocked as I was with joy is because the only reason you have not experienced it is due to your life-long imagination that you need something else first. Happiness itself, unalloyed, unattached, unrestricted in any way, is perfect happiness.

The potential value in the happiness challenge is more about raising your “happiness consciousness,” or caring about how you feel, first and foremost. You don’t actually have to upload a photo to have “happiness consciousness,” but it could be one way of developing the habit. (Practicing what I call Alchemy is an easier way.)

However, having “happiness consciousness” and having no idea about the true source of happiness and having no hope of discovering it because you are believing the false, can be utter hell. So the first step is to stop blaming your unhappiness on anything outside of you, and to start claiming the happiness within.

As for the happiness challenge website itself, having people upload photos and virally sharing them is a wonderful marketing scheme. There is no company or name on the happiness challenge website, but a whois lookup finds it’s registered to Dmitrijs Golubnicijs, of the Netherlands. The site is only three months old, but is hugely successful on the social networks.

More false conditioning comes from statements like this reason on the site to take the challenge: People will “start noticing what makes them happy every day.” The site has acquired 897k shares on Facebook and 12.1k Tweets. That’s a lot of people exposed to the happiness lie virus.

At least the numbers show a huge interest in happiness. May the truth prevail.

Cindy Teevens is author of The Happiness Lie, and Alchemy. She is one of the leading inner peace and happiness facilitators, exceptional and unique in helping people shift their state and transform their lives permanently, from the inside out. Six years after the violent suicide of her father, in one moment her own intense suffering was swapped for amazing joy, altering her life permanently. Happiness and peace became her predominant states.

Understandings began to come about how we have been living backwards, how we have mistaken the outside for the inside, and how we have tethered ourselves to the uncontrollable winds of change in the midst of freedom—and how we can return to truth, sanity, and peace.

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