There is an alphabet song where the lines are “Happy, happy we shall be! When I know my ABC”! Happiness is what we are all looking for in our lives. If one is always happy in life, then we think he has made it. But is it so? Life is never a bed of roses; with roses, there always will be thorns. Because of this combination of roses and thorns, we are all the time looking for roses.
There are hundreds of books and articles on the subject, “How to be happy in life?” or “How to be positive?” But is it essential to always be happy? Is it possible to forever remain happy? A life having only one or two dimensions is never full. Our emotions are going to change with different events. You have lost a significant order to a competitor, and you are brooding. On the way back home, you break a traffic rule and get a ticket. You don’t care much about the ticket because the loss of the order has made you really unhappy. Our emotions and the reaction to situations is relative and is never the same.
Happiness and sadness are some of our feelings. What are emotions anyway? Emotions are the result of your mind comparing your external environment to your expectations. The same way you feel hot and cold when you walk outside (you step into open air, your skin feels the temperature relative to your body temperature and then sends a signal to your brain saying, “it’s hot” or “it’s cold”), your emotions do the same for complex psychological phenomena.
So you step outside, your body sends your brain the signal “it’s cold”, and you run inside and get a coat. Similarly, if you come home from work and catch your husband arguing with someone on the phone, your body sends the emotional signal to your brain, which says, “Oh! He is in a foul mood!” and then you go away from the husband who is talking on the phone and settle with a cup of coffee on the couch.
Emotions are designed to create strong incentives for us to take action and do something to get rid of conflict between our expectations and our environment, either by changing our environment or changing our expectations. Will someone be happy in life if he is always happy, at least outwardly? Life is full of happy times and sad times; sometimes, it has dark times and elated times. Such opposite emotions counterbalance each other in life. After a dark period, one would always like the ecstatic phase!
Consider an example from your office domain. You have worked hard, put in a lot of smart efforts, you get along very well with others. You have always shown initiative, completed your projects on time. When the time comes, you are given a big raise, and you have been promoted. Time to celebrate, you are happy! Consider the same situation. Except that you are offered the routine increase, you don’t get promoted. Your nasty colleague who does not get along with people but is related to the boss’s boss becomes your boss. In this case, you are miserable. You introspect and analyse the situation. You rethink about your career, your current job. After a couple of months of studying the situation caused by your anger, you decide to change your job; but this was done with proper analysis of your situation. You ultimately end up into your dream career. The anger, adequately channelled, made you act!
That reminds me of a person who used to be always happy. He would be the centre of attraction at any party. Under any situation in the office, he would try and help people to overcome issues, sadness, and negativity. All of us used to wonder how he could always smile in life. When his mother died, his colleagues went to meet him at home. They found something strange but could not judge it. Later on, after a few weeks, he confided in one of the colleagues that all was not well with his life. He had financial problems, and his family life was a disaster. He had significant medical difficulties with his child. His outward smile was a cover up for all the issues in life. He said that he was trying to overcome the problems by smiling all the time. But this was his way of not accepting the difficulties. He never wanted to face them head-on.
Our life is full of many stressful events to be happy in any situation, hence stay happy under no-matter-what is a wrong method of handling things. In life, we need emotional diversity. Emotional diversity is just what it sounds like: experiencing a variety of emotions. And it turns out that people who experience a wide range of both positive and negative emotions are a lot better off, both mentally and physically than people who only experience a few feelings regularly, good or bad. It is like investing in varied savings instruments like mutual funds, Stocks, SIPs, and so on. If one instrument loses value, others could help you.
A diverse emotional life isn’t just made up of a few “good” and “bad” emotions. You can also have lots of emotional subcategories, like amusement, joy, contentment, gratefulness, pride, love, hope, and anger, sadness, guilt, contempt, anxiety, disgust, embarrassment, and on and on.
People who experience a more extensive range of these types of specific subcategories of emotions are more resilient in the face of adversity because they’re better at identifying what triggers those emotions. And thus, if you know what’s making you feel the way you feel, it’s a whole lot easier to react appropriately to it.
People who practice a wide range of emotions are self-aware enough to know what triggers these emotions and then act accordingly. It makes them feel more in control of their lives, a huge factor in determining happiness and general well-being. It also helps you to avoid continually think about how to achieve happiness! When we are always in pursuit of happiness or positivity, we tend to forget that emotions are transient superficial things and don’t mean anything by themselves. Emotions are very rarely absolute in life. When Djokovic won the Wimbledon final yesterday, he must be on the top of the world. But on the other side, Federer must have been sad or devastated. But they both have played enough tennis to know that these feelings are transient! At the prize distribution, the anchor said to Federer, “I am never ever going to forget this fantastic match.” Federer answered with a wry smile, “I am in a hurry to forget this match!” Same event different emotions!
So in life, if you are angry, it’s ok. Don’t suppress it; anger will go away after some time. If you are happy, enjoy it; some trouble is lurking around the corner! Similarly, if you are sad or unhappy, it will go away; something pleasant will come up.
Be human and don’t even try to become superhuman!