As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I am in a constant space of thinking about happiness. Happiness in my client's lives, their relationships, and of course in my own. I've come to realize that happiness is an elusive feeling we've all been chasing or being sold from a young age. We forget that happiness is just an emotion and emotions are temporary. They pass through you like trains coming in to pick up their next passenger. Think back to when you last felt angry. Do you still feel that way? The heart pounding, palms sweaty (mom's spaghetti), blinding rage has probably passed now and you feel calm. Would you expect to feel anger for the rest of your life? No, yet people expect to "get to a place in their life" where they feel happy all the time. This is just a disservice to the moments of happiness that you will feel. It doesn't work like that.
Don't strive to be happy, as it is fleeting. You will become disillusioned and unsatisfied in your life if you expect the feeling to last forever. Strive to live fully in moments of joy, strive to be fulfilled and productive. Strive to be kind and grateful. Give when you can and say no when you want to. Set boundaries around draining relationships and practice self-care. This is the only recipe for happiness I know.
So many of my clients come in saying, "I don't feel happy" and while depression can be the happiness sucker, we later find through exploration that they aren't feeling the sadness or negative emotions either. They've numbed out to avoid the pain but in doing so it becomes nearly impossible to feel the "good" emotions. If you want to feel happy you have to know what sadness feels like. This can be difficult as we fear giving in to the sadness. As if, if we feel sad we may never feel happy again. Sadness is not all encompassing this way (depression can be). Sadness, just like happiness, is an emotion that is temporary. So the next time sadness comes into your life don't run from it. Sit with it, lean into it, and thank it, knowing that it will pass and maybe as it goes it will leave you feeling happy for a moment or two. I find that giving in to moments of sadness can be refreshing. That a good cry creates room in my heart and my head for laughter and joy. I've come into the habit of playing really loud dance music after sitting with my sadness and I've found that the emotion leaves as quickly as it came. That I can feel happiness mere moments after bawling on the bathroom floor. I encourage you to find your own ritual around sitting with the difficult emotions. I hope you don't feel discouraged by this, as it does not mean you will not feel contentment in your life. You can cultivate a "happy" life by managing expectations, by following through with your "mental health checklist", and by feeling heavy emotions to lead to a healing and content life.