Happiness is a side-effect not the goal

Here are two great considerations of happiness.  Something to keep in mind while developing an awareness based life.  I think they are worth revisiting (again and again).

    …“many negative emotions such as anxiety, anger, disgust and sadness are a normal part of our emotional repertoire.  These protection emotions are the big players in our brains and can easily override positive emotions: if you’re enjoying lunch in the park and a lion appears, you’d better lose interest in the pleasure of lunch and run!  These emotions evolved to help us detect and cope with threats, but in our society, obsessed as it is with happiness, we sometimes feel that, if we experience them to any degree, there’s something wrong with us.  Importantly, we should note that our brains did not evolve for happiness but for survival and reproduction, so we need to learn how to accept, tolerate and work with difficult emotions or low moods.  These aren’t evidence of ‘something wrong’ with us but can be quite normal responses to things in our life.”

The Compassionate Mind by Paul Gilbert, p.25


 What exactly is happiness?

We all want it.  We all crave it.  We all strive for it.  Even the Dalai Lama has said: “The very purpose of life is to seek happiness”.  But what exactly is it?

The word “happiness” has two very different meanings.  The common meaning of the word is “feeling good”.  In other words, feeling a sense of pleasure, gladness, or gratification.  We all enjoy these feelings, so it’s no surprise that we chase them.  However, like all human emotions, feelings of happiness don’t last.  No matter how hard we try to hold on to them, they slip away every time.  And as we shall see, a life spent in pursuit of those good feelings is, in the long term, deeply unsatisfying.  In fact, the harder we chase after pleasurable feelings, the more we are likely to suffer from anxiety and depression.

The other far-less-common meaning of happiness is “living a rich, full, and meaningful life”.  When we take action on the things that truly matter deep in our hearts, move in directions that we consider valuable and worthy, clarify what we stand for in life and act accordingly, then our lives become rich and full and meaningful, and we explore a powerful sense of vitality.  This is not some fleeting feeling – it is a profound sense of a life well lived.  And although such a life will undoubtedly give us many pleasurable feelings, it will also give us uncomfortable ones, such as sadness, fear, and anger.  This is only to be expected.  If we live a full life, we will feel the full range of human emotions.

The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris, p.5-6

This post used to live elsewhere. It was edited and uploaded to this website, 18 Dec 2016