Why The Internet Needs To Stop Telling Me How To Be Happy
Funny thing, the internet. One minute, it explodes with trolling, shaming and abuse. The next, it spews out articles promising that by following 10 easy tips, you can be happy forever.
The pressure to be happy can be overwhelming as we’re bombarded with one hollow motivational listicle after another, pretty much anywhere we venture on the internet. On Medium alone, a quick search yields article titles like:
Things Happy People Do
How To Be Happy
You Don’t Risk Enough To Be Happy
Happiness Hacks: The 10 Most Unexpected Ways to Be Happy
10 Morning Habits Of Really Happy People
and my personal favourite…
How I Reduced Stress, Increased Productivity, and Made Myself Happy Again (well, don’t you just have it all..!)
Tips guaranteed to bring happiness to your life include ‘don’t check your emails in the morning’, ‘have a healthy breakfast’, ‘avoid the depressing newspaper’. Voila, you’re all set with your happiness-building kit.
The thing is, happiness is not the ultimate experience. Seeking to live only by positive emotion is not a healthy aspiration.
And those listicles? One hollow, new-age piece of advice after another, author convinced she knows exactly what happiness is or should be for any individual on this planet.
But happiness is not productivity. Happiness is not being healthy. Happiness is not ‘brainwashing yourself with positive thought’ (as per Leonard Kim) — that’s just brainwashing yourself. Happiness is a state I cannot possibly describe. Happiness is not something you can get tips for.
There is a hugely individual flow and evolution to happiness. No one-size-fits-all fix, no off-the-shelf solution. No one universal, god-given tip to make you happy.
I just know that for me, happiness cannot be a positive habit. It cannot be an organised, structured framework of getting up early, having healthy meals, thinking happy thoughts and repeating specific mantras. For me, happiness is following trains of thought, letting myself run with things and people and places, not forcing myself into any scheme or pattern, not listening to brainless ‘gurus’ or preachers.
For me, happiness is figuring out my own path.
So here is my manifesto, and a promise to myself to steer clear of the omnipresent-gimmicky-happiness-bullshit.
1. I will NOT meditate with the sole purpose of making myself happy.
If I ever meditate, it will be to unwind, get some space and process my thoughts on a subconscious level.
2. I will NOT have a healthy breakfast every morning to ‘kickstart my day with a positive experience’.
I will have exactly the kind of breakfast I want on that day, and if that consists of fruit loops, then so be it.
3. I will NOT go sit on a bench in the park in a token outdoor activity.
If I want to experience the great outdoors, I will go to the beach, or to the mountains, and admire the view not because I need to draw happiness from it, but because nature is awesome.
4. I will NOT avoid checking my emails.
In fact, I will check them and respond to them because I care about the people who are trying to reach me. That makes me more happy than fighting the urge to open up that inbox.
5. I will NOT get up early just because it gives me more time to do more things in that day.
Screw that. On weekends, I will stay in bed for as long as I want. On weekdays, I will first and foremost get enough sleep, and then think about getting up early or late.
6. I will NOT plan my day just because of some vague notion that it may improve my happiness levels.
I will plan my day because I am organised, and because any job in the world requires you to prioritise. Planning is a necessity, not a tool for attaining happiness.
7. I will NOT give compliments to people without rhyme or reason.
If I think your earrings are beautiful, or you did a great job, I will definitely mention it. But I will not become a compliment-distributing vending machine just because it injects positive words into my daily vocabulary.
8. I will NOT read listicles, articles or books on how to be happy.
I refuse to believe that what’s inside is anything other than cliche, truistic trash and sweeping generalisation.
9. I will NOT write down who I want to be, what kind of person I want to be, and stick rigidly to that version of myself.
If we’re talking self-improvement, I will evolve at the right pace, with the right goals in mind, in a way that suits my character, but I will NOT force myself into a mould.
10. I will NOT start framing any thought I have about myself or the world with positive vocabulary.
Yes, I will NOT condition myself to use cheerful language just because it brainwashes me to have positive expression. If I want to use a negative word, guess what? I will do exactly that.
I hereby pledge to abide by my own happiness playbook, continue carving out my own path and refusing to believe that cheap tricks ‘do the job’.
And we’ll see how it goes.