Can You Make Yourself Happy?
Last month I was reading an article about an app that comes with exercises meant to make you happier. Perhaps not happy but happier than you are overall.
It piqued my interest because… well… don’t we all want to be happier? I mean, who would turn down something like happiness? (“Oh, no, thanks. I’d rather be miserable.”) And at the same time, I don’t know if making oneself happy is actually possible. I think there are things we can do that bring us toward or farther away from that emotion, but actually making happiness happen? That seems outside our control.
I mean, I can’t make myself sad. I can read sad books and watch sad movies and listen to sad stories and feel something akin to sad. But once I move away from the stimuli, I’m usually not sad for very long. In all of those cases, I’m sad for. I’m sad for the character or the other person, but I’m not sad for myself. So I can’t really make myself sad. It’s like I can only go and stand next to sad, but I can’t actually become sad.
I can recognize that: That the sad I feel when I watch the sad movie is not the same kind of sad I feel when I’m really grieving a loss. They are both sad, but one feels real and vivid and the other feels like I’m viewing sad through a window. It is outside, and I am inside. I can look at it, but I don’t have to get close to it.
So wouldn’t the opposite be true, too? Can we really make ourselves happy? I can do the exercises on that app and feel like it was time well spent, but does that actually mean that I’m happier? So much of my happiness is a combination of how I’m viewing the world at the moment coupled with what is happening in my day-to-day world. Content with work, getting some me-time, feeling like I’m doing a good job on the parenting front: All of that equals happiness. When things are not great with work, I’m not getting me-time, or I’m feeling like a failure in parenting: I’m not feeling happiness.
Can we really make ourselves happier if those facets of life (whichever ones you use to determine your happiness levels) are out of whack? Can I be miserable with work and forget to do stuff for the kids and balance it with a few exercises on an app and restore happiness?
Because if we all agree that we can’t make ourselves be sad, why do we believe the idea that we can make ourselves be happy?