Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Wanting To Be Happy All The Time

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There is probably no attitude more detrimental to the mental health of the average Westerner than wanting to be happy all the time. It’s not just wanting to be happy, it’s expecting to be happy, believing such a situation can and should exist.

This is yet another example of the tyranny of the shoulds, of rigid, impossible to attain standards around how life should be. On the surface it might seem like wanting to be happy all the time is a positive goal, one to be praised and encouraged, but the attitude devalues other normal healthy states of being, judging them as not good enough.

Happiness is one of the most pleasant emotions, there’s no denying that, but from a strictly objective psychological point of view it’s no better or worse than any of the other emotions, whose purpose it is to give you feedback about the stimuli in your environment so that you can make the best choices for yourself.

If you really were happy all the time you’d probably miss important emotional feedback instructing you to protect yourself or get various needs met, for example. You might content yourself with a situation that was actually harmful to your growth and self-actualization.

Our point is to let go of unreasonable expectations for permanent happiness and focus instead on creating the best conditions for your individual needs. And anyway, as Viktor Frankl put it, happiness cannot be pursued it must ensue. When you make self-actualization your primary goal you’ll probably be happy much of the time but you’ll make room for your other emotional states too.