Lately I’ve often heard the term “we deserve to just be happy” as if there is this notion that we can be happy three-hundred-and-sixty-five days a year.
Consumerism will sell it to you and when the novelty starts to wear off, don’t worry, they’ll sell you more. The Internet will tell you can be happy by accepting and exuding “good vibes” only. It’s like as a society we’ve pushed this unrealistic goal to consistently feel happy as a parent, in our jobs, in our entire lives.
But here’s the kicker – None of the above can explain how to ignore the things that can make you feel sad or even how to stop them from making you feel sad in the first place and that’s because you can’t.
Overwhelmingly it feels like everyone has come together and mutually agreed to never admit that feeling sad is actually OK, just in case this realisation somehow makes us all stop wanting to be happy.
Learning to recognise and confront your sadness is paramount, because no matter how amazing your life is, as I have learnt, there will definitely be at least a few events in your lifetime that make you feel sad.
In 2006, I openly documented my struggle with grief and mental illness from losing my loved ones and whilst it was a rocky road in finding my feet again, I felt I dealt with it pretty well. This was up until until a couple of years ago, when I started to buy into this “good vibes only” ideal. I programmed myself to only feel and share happiness, posting meme upon meme on social media of uplifting quotes about “embracing happiness” and “ignoring” the unhappy feelings.
I had this unrealistic assumption that everyone around me was perpetually happy in their lives, on an express journey to self-enlightenment and therefore, I should be too. So I started trying to block out and eradicate my sadness. I became obsessed with having to feel happy all the time. But while I was ignoring my sadness and running around in circles chasing my happiness tail, I started to feel detached. My periods of grief and sadness started to get longer, mish-mashing together with my happy times I used to experience disappearing into the ether. The more I tried to feel happy, the less happy I felt until I ultimately fell into a deep depression when I could no longer cope with keeping up a facade of embracing eternal happiness.
The less I was hung up about being happy, the happier I eventually became.
Pretty big things were happening to me that should have made me feel happy. I had just landed my first job abroad, I was developing my first app and my best friend just had her first baby, yet, none of this was making me feel happy. I spent so long obsessing about happiness that I forgot what it actually felt like. I’d started to see happiness as a journey to an ultimate holiday destination rather than just feeling it for what it was.
I realised I needed to change something because spending every minute trying to achieve happiness clearly wasn’t working. So I decided to let go. Instead I would start trying to be less sad which felt much more attainable and I began to do a lot of small things that used to make me happy without worrying too much about the outcome.
It took a while but slowly I started to experience genuine happiness again. The less I was hung up about being happy, the happier I eventually became. Of course I still felt sad, hopeless and grief from time to time but I reminded myself what I’ve always believed, that it’s normal and perfectly acceptable to feel that way and that I will ride out the storm.
So next time you feel sad, just let yourself feel sad because guess what? It’ll be OK. I promise you that. Don’t worry about it too much and don’t force yourself to be happy or believe that you always have to feel happy. Accept that sometimes you’re going to feel sad, and that it will pass — in the same way that other emotions you feel come in and out of your life.
“Emotions are like water, they’re always moving and if you’re not careful they can drown you. Swimming against the tide is exhausting, and eventually it can become too much. Sometimes you have to let yourself just go with the flow for a little while.”
Hello! My name is Annie. I’m the creator of The Penelope Project. The Penelope Project is a blog I commenced in 2016 after suffering a mental health relapse during a battle with physical illness. It has since evolved and has become a space where our community comes together to collaborate and share stories to provide awareness and support of mental illness. To join our community, click here .