Let’s talk about happiness. Is it a goal? A destination? Perhaps it’s simply a chemical reaction? Well, it’s a little more complicated than that.

In western culture, we tend to be focused, even obsessed with happiness. Straight to the United State’s founding, “pursuit of happiness” has been ingrained into the very core of our culture. In fact, we value it so much that we exclusively want to feel happiness, other feelings be damned. 

With thousands of books, songs, even podcasts surrounding the topic, you would think that we have unmasked some surefire formula to achieve happiness. However, the reality is that happiness is fleeting, destined to come and go all throughout our lives. But this temporary nature of happiness, as well as all of our emotions, is what enables us to feel them. 

Listen to “Happiness: Why We Value It So Highly – Feelings Matter Episode 3” on Spreaker.

If you think about it, you would never be able to enjoy the good moments in your life if you never experienced negative emotions like pain, loss, anger, or sadness. These feelings, which we commonly perceive as “bad,” are in fact a key to understanding what makes you happy, and ending the labeling of emotions as “good” or “bad” is the first step.

From a young age, we are commonly taught that expressing negative emotions is something to be avoided. Punishment for crying or displaying anger are commonplace in many households, and has a lasting effect on how we process emotions in adulthood. But if we shift our perspective and instead see negative emotions as a signal, we can use these feelings as an instrument of change.

Take a minute to remember the last time you felt anger, pain, or guilt; what did you do as a result? Maybe you acted carelessly, or bottled it up and tried to suppress it. In such a situation, it’s good to step away from instinct, and look at yourself and your surroundings to see what is actually causing these feelings. If you can identify what is causing it, you are one step closer to making the change necessary to turn these negative feelings into positive change.

In addition to recognizing negative emotions, awareness of positive emotions is equally as important. Practicing mindfulness, or awareness of your own inner thoughts, senses, and surroundings, can prolong the release of dopamine (the “happiness” neurotransmitter), and therefore intensify your good feelings. The warmth of the sun as you take a stroll, the softness of your dog’s fur as you pet them, or the splash of colors on a canvas are all small things that could bring you joy. We can’t tell you what will make you feel happy; it is exclusive to you and you alone, but identifying and honing in on these pockets of happiness, no matter how big or small, can bring you closer to making the most of your good feelings. 

It takes time, and it’s not a perfect process, but once you can figure out how to process your positive and negative emotions in a healthy way, you are on the right path. And while happiness is not a drive or goal to be accomplished, it is a powerful tool that can propel you forward and motivate you, regardless of the bumps in the road.

By Olivia Choutupalli, Writer for Mindful Appy

Hi, I’m Olivia! I am a second-year student at the University of Florida pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Digital Arts and Sciences. Outside of the classroom, I am a passionate artist, dancer, and dog-lover!

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