Yes, I am sad. I am not really sure why. Usually, I can blame external things, often my sadness is fleeting, but every now and then, I feel deeply sad – as if there is something wrong that I cannot put my finger on. Now is one of those times.
There is a campaign going across facebook at the moment called 100 happy days. I hate this stupid campaign. The idea is to post a “happy” picture to facebook, every day for 100 days. One of my friends has signed on to do it and I all but told her that I think it’s a waste of time. I was gentle with her, but this 100 days of happiness crap really drives me crazy.
I said to her, “it’s pointless to aspire to be “happy”.
Meaning is what gives life purpose – not happiness.”
Yeah – I know. What a grouch. I then pointed her to one of my favourite blog posts by Penelope Trunk The pursuit of happiness makes life shallow. My friend nicely replied to me, “Alyce, I understand the point of that article but finding things that make you happy can give your life meaning, plus if you find happiness in small everyday things I think you are more likely to look for greater meaning in life.”
Honestly – I will join the Buddhists here and reiterate that
There is no sadness: Life is suffering
Really – honestly it is. From the Pope to the Queen from Obama to Lindsay Lohan, misery is part of the human experience. Taking a bloody photo of a cat and tagging it #100happydays does nothing more for your wellbeing and mental state than watching TV or reading a book. It is meaningless.
I wrote a post on this not too long ago, Happiness is NOT the goal. Here’s Why. I went through a very bad break up about a year ago. Despite being the worst thing that ever happened to me, the experience was valuable. It was not happy. Do I wish that I didn’t go through it? No. I value the hard times just as much as the happy times. If I wanted to start a hashtag called #100saddays people would think I was mad, but why not? Isn’t a sad day worth just as much as a happy one?
Trunk says, “Victor Frankl writes that stress and hardship are actually more meaningful than happiness because they cause you to be focused on others rather than yourself.”
She also says (from a quote in an upcoming paper), “”Happiness without meaning characterizes a relatively shallow, self-absorbed or even selfish life, in which things go well, needs and desires are easily satisfied, and difficult or taxing entanglements are avoided.”
Should you try to have a “positive outlook” and to let go of sadness?
Another goal of the stupid #100happydays campaign is to give people “a more positive outlook.” Again, this is vacuous.
I found another article called Why Realistic Wisdom Beats Positive Thinking which states
“Oncologist Dr. O. Simonton was asked which individuals were more likely to survive cancer. It was clear that the author of the question assumed Simonton would say, “but of course, the positive thinkers.” He didn’t….
…He said that pure (sic: unbelievable) positive thinking (“I am healed,” for instance) actually worked against patients as much as grossly negative thinking (“I’m dying; there’s no hope”). What seemed to make a difference was what he called realistic thinking. When a person could believably say to him or herself that everything was being done to help and they were doing everything they could to be better and healthier every day, they seemed to cross a threshold — from the fanciful into the possible, which is where real hope exists.”
Should you learn to cope with sadness?
In short – don’t bother with pretending you are happy. Don’t bother pretending to have positive thoughts.
Be sad. I give you permission. Feel like crap. Mope around and feel lousy. Personally, I think this is just as valuable as being ‘happy’.