Why aren’t I happy?

Shalyssa: “How are you?”

Me: “OK”

Shalyssa: “Why just ok? What’s wrong?”

Ok, so here is the thing… in today’s Western world, we are given the message that if we are anything other than “great”, there is something wrong.

I spend a lot of time validating and explaining that given people’s circumstances, they are appropriately distressed. For example, if they don’t have financial security, a peer group/ tribe, a sense of purpose or mastery, meaning or creativity and play- it is expected and even healthy to be distressed and upset by this. The distress is just a signalling system telling us that important basic needs are not being met and trying to motivate us to DO something, take action, to remedy the situation.  We often get the message that it is bad to be sad, or mad, or anything other than “happy”,  or “great”.


  • We aren’t programmed to be happy. We are programmed to have and experience a full range of emotions.
  • Saying or treating sadness like it is “wrong” or bad, is like saying that the night is wrong because it isn’t sunny, or the winter is wrong because it isn’t warm.
  • This isn’t to say there isn’t a difference between being appropriately sad or mad and mental illness. However my experience with seeing people is that it is easy to confuse the two when we are bombarded with messages telling us to be happy and that when we aren’t, we are somehow not doing life right, or correctly.

Here is a 4 minute video by Russ Harris about The 3 Happiness Myths:

Before you go on, ask yourself if you might be appropriately distressed by some of your needs NOT being met?

Here is a quick worksheet you can do to help yourself find out…
5 Things survey



One thought on “Why aren’t I happy?

  1. It’s taken me a long time to recognize that I am in deep deep grief. It encompasses depression and other emotions, but it’s grief. I have lost so much, and I am mourning those losses. I now realize that being broken-hearted over loss is normal. And it takes time to heal. Sometimes a long time. For me, the key is accepting the grief and loss and extreme sadness, loneliness and isolation, and trying to walk with them. It takes a lot of me to carry these burdens. It’s exhausting, but a necessary part of my healing. When I am healed, I will leave these burdens behind, and perhaps find joy again.

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