Posted 10th June 2020
Why can’t we be happy all the time?To ask for information or to arrange an appointment,
please call Kenneth Demsky, PhD on 020 7435 6116
or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Emotions are in their essential nature, fluid and fleeting. It is both the good news and the bad news of life that “Nothing lasts forever”. When we have a highly positive mood, we want it to last as long as possible; when we have a very negative mood, we want it to pass as quickly as possible. However, there is no psychologically healthy way of capturing an emotion and making it permanent.
Furthermore, human beings only perceive things by contrast. Thus, we only see dark because we see light, too. What we experience as happiness exists in contrast to our experience of unhappiness. For instance, if you think of what might make you happy and imagine that as never-ending, it might become nightmarish. Spending time in the sun, lounging around the pool can be enjoyable, but only if the rest of our time is spent differently. A lifetime of such repose would be as debilitating as being incarcerated; we need much more than ‘down time’ to satisfy our complex psyches. You might enjoy eating chocolate, but if that was all you ever ate, you’d find yourself growing sick at the mere thought of it and might grow desperate for a change of diet. (Chocoholics, beware!) Although one’s mood is less transient than one’s feelings—the former can be compared to the weather of a particular season and the latter to the constantly changing temperature and humidity throughout each day—moods also flow onward and change.
What truly does give us a sense of being generally happy is having an emotional baseline that is positive. The baseline is the set-point to which our emotions return after moving up or down. In an optimal situation, this happens without any conscious effort on the individual’s part. Whilst a depressed person might have a positive interaction one day and a generally content person have a negative one, their emotional baselines will be greatly different from each other. Despite a pleasant chat with a neighbour, depressed persons return to hopelessness; despite an unpleasant encounter, content persons resume the generally optimistic outlook which is characteristic of them.
Whilst we can’t be happy 100% of the time, we can work to possess a positive baseline, robust enough to re-assert itself soon after we experience something negative. That gives us enough upbeat moments to feel generally happy, whilst still allowing us the healthy range of naturally occurring feelings that are essential to our mental health.
Posted 10th June 2020