What’s up all you happy campers? Expect that you aren’t are you? We’re not as happy as we’re supposed to be, according to a recent article that shows that lots of us are popping happy pills.
In some northern European countries as much as one in ten have had a prescription for antidepressants. Some doctors are worried that these pills are being prescribed not just to combat depression, but to combat unhappiness.
So where does all this unhappiness come from? This is what I think. It’s not very complicated.
For some reason my generation (apparently we’re generation Y, although I find these definitions quite confusing) expects not only to be happy, but to be the best at everything, save the world and earn millions. If we don’t we’re horrible failures.
The blog Wait but Why explains this very well.
They use “Lucy” as an example.
With a smoother, more positive life experience than that of their own parents, Lucy’s parents raised Lucy with a sense of optimism and unbounded possibility. And they weren’t alone. Baby Boomers all around the country and world told their Gen Y kids that they could be whatever they wanted to be, instilling the special protagonist identity deep within their psyches.
We’re also constantly bombarded with messages telling us we’re not pretty enough, that we need to own certain things to be happy and that we have to have a certain lifestyle.
Because life doesn’t meet our expectations we become sad.
We must be happy all the time
Actually, what’s wrong with being unhappy?
It’s OK to be sad. It’s OK for life not to be awesome all the time. A lot of blogs, books and ads tell us that we must be happy all the time. Yes… all the time. Otherwise there is something wrong with us. We must think happy thoughts. Avoid unhappy people – even cut them out of our lives. Stop moping and smile, because as we all know by now, just the act of smiling will make us happy. *Yey*.
Where does this compulsion to be happy come from? It’s not always been there. In the past other values like hard work or godliness were more important. Now I’m not saying that these patterns of thinking were any better. They just gave us rules for how to live a good life. And we like rules because life is by default confusing, so we look for things that will tell us how to live and think.
But if we constantly expect to be happy, then it’s a much bigger catastrophe when things aren’t great, which leads to guilt about not being happy (because of course everyone else is a lot happier then I am… what’s wrong with me!). This leads to more unhappiness and the cycle continues until some of us find themselves standing in front of the mirror every morning manically repeating “I am full of love” or something similar and just becoming even more confused.
I’m not saying self-help stuff is totally useless, but perhaps it’s not too different from praying, which many people did when godliness was the mental state du jour.
How to stay OK
This is what I’ve learned after 29 (almost) years as a somewhat self-aware person on this planet. Everything is better with moderate exercise and a healthy diet. If we stop watching a lot of TV and stop worrying about what other people think about us then we’re on the way to something good.
Finally. Nothing beats the company of family and good friends.
*Unhappiness and depression are two different things. I’m not really talking about depression and how to deal with it in this post.