Stop Telling Me to Be Happy

Imagine you are sick. You’ve been laying in bed vomiting, sneezing and using so many tissues that your nose has started to bleed. It occurs to you “I’m sick!” You head over to the nearest pharmacy and scamper over to the counter where you ask for the best remedy to get over this horrible cold. The pharmacist leans in, whispers gently in your ear “just don’t be sick.” This isn’t a scene out of a horror film; this is exactly how I feel when I see articles that read “Be Happy.” If that were the cure to depression, would Zoloft be out of business?

I look into these articles and I realize that they are filled with things that say “go for a hike,” “grab some coffee from your favorite café” maybe even, “take pictures!” I didn’t know it, but all along the secret to being happy was in the tour guide of Nevada. Granted, these are really good ideas for letting your mind wander, or kicking up your endorphins, but people who are truly unhappy need more.

By nature, I am not a depressed person, and people who know me would vouch for the complete opposite. The idea is, I have gone through tough times and it adds insult to injury to be told to smile or feign felicity. Life sucks sometimes. Life however, is beautiful and I understand that, and most people who are unhappy also understand that. This is what I would like these authors to know. Classes that teach laugh yoga, plastic surgery that makes your face a permanent smile, our culture only seems to accept one emotion. This is what happens when stigmatizing depression, people are afraid to show the ranges of their emotions. If I want to lie in bed, draw the curtains and listen to Fiona Apple all day, I am damn well going to. Then when all my tears dry and I realize I can’t listen to “Sleep to Dream” one more time, I come to my senses and realize that things aren’t as bad as they seem. I don’t need an article to tell me to be peppy, because I realize that being sad is a part of life; moreover, I realize wallowing in misery isn’t productive. However, if it is cathartic, who is to say I shouldn’t do it?

An article recently on talks about being happy and one of the pivotal pieces of advice is “Do more things that make you happy, and less of the things that don’t.” I apologize to those who mistakenly took that for “advice” and not common knowledge. We as humans are hedonistic, and we strive for pleasure and stray from pain. My main gripe is that these articles aren’t intrinsically helpful. If you want to be happy, be happy. If you want to be sad and mournful, then be it. However, I will not let someone tell me that I am wrong for having emotions. You specifically know what is most important for you, so don’t feel like you are running an uphill battle against happiness. However, don’t let your sadness be a hindrance. Just be OK with your emotions, and listen to yourself. I think that’s what is most important.

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