Why I don’t want to be happy

In the midst of so much pain and chaos, I’ve been grateful for quarantine offering me an incredible time of peace and focus. My extroverted self has been thriving in a complete liberty from expectations (from others, and those I set for myself) on how to use my time. One of the things I had de-prioritized in my life was writing, and I’m loving my new at-home routine of a glass of wine at sunset, lo-fi hip hop in the background and simply putting down my thoughts.

Happiness is fragile.

Chasing happiness is a pervasive topic in current culture. 8 Billion search results reveal inconclusive results on how to find it. Neatly written guides offer strategies on finding what will make you happy, ranging from mediation to decluttering your home. Does the secret to finding a happy life lie within our control, or is it forever going to escape us?

We run after achievements, chasing a momentary feeling of fullness and satisfaction. Our career goals, relationships, finances — they all influence our current state of happiness. There is a cyclical dependency in our occupied minds and calendars that starts to uncover a shallow understanding of what will truly fulfill our desires.

If happiness is derived from getting what you want, once you have what you want you’re going to need a new incentive to keep you happy. When you reach your goal, you need to set a new one. The endless cycle repeats, hinting at how fragile and subjective happiness can be.

As a designer, I often address problems in terms of subjectivity. I step away from my own perspective, and try to observe from the outside-in to bring to light objective truths about behavior and user needs. When you delve into subjective opinion, conversation is often derailed and feedback is biased. Similarly, our happiness is easily overwhelmed by our own subjective bias. Circumstances deeply influence our immediate feelings of happiness.

Happiness is not a substitute for joy.

So what’s the difference between happiness and joy? Happiness is defined as a state of being. Joy, on the other hand, is defined as “a source or cause of delight.”

A source of delight. It’s rooted, deep, more than a feeling subject to your circumstances. Joy can pull you out of the hell of the moment when sadness and pain have overwhelmed you and stolen your happiness. Joy enables you to be sad without fear, and acknowledge that pain is a normal part of life.

We’ve reduced the depth of a life lived in joy to moments spent chasing fleeting happiness. Joy is not a decision or a daily choice. To be cliché, it’s a lifestyle. A lifestyle overflowing from a heart of gratitude and inner peace, even when your feelings tell you the opposite.

CS Lewis aptly said,

“Good things as well as bad, you know, are caught by a kind of infection, if you want to get warm you must stand near the fire: if you want to be wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them.”

Happiness is created and found, but joy lives within.

A calming sense of freedom comes from letting go of the need for external affirmation, or even the popular idea of self-validation from within yourself alone. As I ponder this topic, I can’t leave my faith out of it. Temporary satisfaction found chasing immediate gratification quickly leaves us empty, but true joy from a loving God joy can fill us to overflowing and sustain us through hardship.

Letting go of happiness doesn’t mean you live in sadness. It means you learn to live with sadness, instead of running from it. It means you allow happiness to find you, instead of chasing it down. It means that a current of joy runs through your heart, always there to sustain you.



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