Dr Maike Neuhaus
5 Myths about happiness that make you unhappy (and what science tells us about them instead)
There are loads of myths making the rounds about happiness. The problem is that if you believe them, they can actually hinder you from being deeply happy and that is the exact opposite of my mission. So, let’s bust at least five of them.
MYTH 1: Happiness simply means 'feeling good'
This is probably the biggest myth I constantly hear about happiness and it is absolutely not true. There are actually 2 types of happiness:
One of them is feeling good, pleasure or joy. This is also called HEDONIA or hedonic happiness, and it’s the kind of joy we feel for example when we’re having a nice dinner with friends, or when we find out that we passed a test.
But the other one (and if you ask me, slightly more important one) is called eudaimonia or eudaimonic happiness and this is the notion of living a fulfilling and purposeful life. And, you can imagine that sometimes, we need to sacrifice hedonic happiness in order to achieve eudaimonic happiness. For example, when instead of going out, we stay in to study in order to pursue a fulfilling career.
So, you can create deep happiness for yourself without having to FEEL happy all the time.
Myth 2: Happiness is our default state
Some people assume that people are naturally born happy and, as long as our needs are all met, we SHOULD feel happy and that is simply not true. In fact, humans naturally experience an ever-flowing change of emotions.
That’s why trying to force yourself or others to be in a happy mood all the time by saying things like cheer up or look at the bright side is called toxic positivity. Remember that real happiness is both feeling happy but also living a good and meaningful life. Sometimes, in order to achieve the latter, we need to sacrifice the former.
And feeling low, sad, angry or frustrated at times is completely normal and can actually be a catalyst for much-needed personal growth, which is a key part of flourishing or being deeply happy.
Myth 3: Happiness is the result of success
Of course, we feel happy when we’ve achieved something important to us. But, research shows that the relationship between happiness and success actually goes both ways: When we’re feeling happy, we’re also more likely to be successful!
That is because being in a positive emotional state makes our brains function much better: studies show that when we feel good, we tend to be more creative, innovative and productive. We tend to be less narrow-minded and see the bigger picture more clearly. And, we have better relationships with others, all of which lead to more success.
So, instead of waiting for success to make you happy, invest time and effort into learning how you can flourish more and success will come as a byproduct.
Myth 4: We need to find the right one & have kids to be happy
Absolutely not! Research shows that finding the right one does not have a huge and lasting positive impact on your happiness at all! It’s a little bit similar to winning the lottery – sure, your spirits will be lifted for a while, but after a year or so given that you don’t do anything to proactively increase your flourishing, your happiness level will return to where it was before!
And the relationship between having kids and happiness is also an interesting one: Research shows that for many people, kids add more stress than happiness to life. This is because of the financial impacts, sleepless nights, and a potential juggle between career and being a parent – the list is long. Please keep in mind that I’m just conveying what research studies on this topic have found. I actually have 2 children myself ;)
MYTH 5: Happiness is a choice
Of course! Just choose to be happy, will ya?! Thinking like this is just another form of toxic positivity and as you know by now, will have the opposite effect on your happiness.
Now back to the facts: Research actually shows that happiness is determined by at least 3 things: our genes (no choice there), our life circumstances (also often hard to change for many people), and our actions – now here’s where we have some choice. While we don’t know yet the exact proportion of the influence of our actions on our happiness, it’s assumed to be substantial.
So if you want to flourish and thrive in life, this is where you get to have a say: By taking charge of the proportion that does lie in your hands: understand what it is humans need to be deeply happy, identify what that looks like for you personally, and then build goals around that and go for it.
And if that is something you would like some help with, I invite you to browse my resources, courses, and coaching plans through which I help you with that step by step. Or simply book a free call with me, so we can have a chat about what might be the best option for you to get flourishing and excited about life.