Here’s the deal…. Our society teaches us that being happy all the time is “normal” and that should be our baseline. This is something called the “happiness trap” (coined by Russ Harris). But this notion is radically incorrect. There is literally no survival value in being happy. You aren’t more likely to have kids if you’re happy. You aren’t even more likely to be successful if you’re happy. Sometimes our anxiety and fear can actually drive us to get things done. (Isn’t that crazy?!) And in evolutionary terms, all your brain cares about is surviving and reproducing so its genes can be passed on.
So over the millions of years of evolution, the people that were careful, likely to hesitate when they saw something in the bushes were the ones more likely to SURVIVE. Even if they were only right 1% of the time, that gene got passed down and was compounded.
The more careful our ancestors were and the more they were driven to never be satisfied (more food, stronger shelters, more children) the more successful they and their genes 🧬 were.). Which is why all of us that exist at this moment in history are HARDWIRED to be careful. We come from a long lineage of ancestors who were careful and made calculated risks. Ancestors who constantly surveyed their surroundings to make sure they were safe, while also trying to get as many resources as possible.
Fast forward to us living in a modern society and our “threats” are typically not life threatening. We no longer are in danger of being eaten by a bear, we are in danger of being called out at work, feeling rejected by friends or being ghosted by a partner. Now, being careful hurts us. Constantly worrying about outcomes that are not going to happen makes us less productive and happy. It’s no wonder so many people have anxiety.
Unlike other animals, who can have a fear about something (say, a dog had a traumatic instance with almost drowning), we can literally imagine being around water and being scared 24 hours a day. A dog lives his life and doesn’t think about the traumatic incident unless he is immediately exposed to water. Through the part of our brain that developed to plan, reason and imagine, though this initially helped us survive, it now allows us to replay unhappy events all day long as if we are still in the situation! Again, no wonder so many of us struggle with feeling happy.
I share this because important information about being happy because before I knew this, I would berate myself and get mad at myself for not being happy. I thought something was wrong with me and that I was a bad person because I had so much. You may feel this way too because of what our society teaches us. I’m here to set the record straight.
YOU CAN BE GRATEFUL AND BE UNHAPPY.
YOU CAN HAVE EVERYTHING YOU COULD EVER WANT AND NOT BE HAPPY.
YOU CAN STILL FEEL LIKE YOU WANT MORE & THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU.
That’s just the way you were wired- your brain was wired to want more and not be satisfied, no matter what you have. You’re not ungrateful, you’re a human being!