If you want to know the truth, I’m not often happy. I was born with a disposition that lends itself to melancholy and anxiety. I’ve always been a worrier and I’m prone to bouts of deep, dramatic sadness. But I’m not complaining. You know why? Because happiness isn’t my life’s goal. And, if you’re looking for honesty here, it shouldn’t be your life’s goal either.
One of the greatest struggles I’ve had over the past (almost!) 10 years of working on Positively Present is misconception that happiness = positivity. In fact, that was one of the greatest struggles of my life before I started truly understanding positivity. I was taught — as most of us are — that the ideal life is a happy life, but the fact is: happiness isn’t something you can guarantee, and making that your life’s focus is going to lead to intense disappointment and a constant, feverish need to find the next source of happiness as soon as the feeling fades.
Back in 2015, I wrote a post called Happiness Is Not a Choice: The Difference Between Happiness + Positivity, and after reading a bunch of happiness-related quotes (in preparation for the 2018 Gratitude Challenge — it’s not too late to join in if you want!), I decided I wanted to revisit the topic since I think it’s one of the most important distinctions for anyone who wants to live a more positive, present life to understand.
Here are some of the differences between happiness and positivity, along with some thoughts on each!
Happiness is a mood.
Positivity is a mindset.
Happiness is fleeting. No matter what wonderful thing happens, the happy feelings will only last so long, and that’s because, like any emotion, happiness is transitory. Positivity, on the other hand, is a way of seeing the world. It’s an attitude that you can embrace no matter how difficult the circumstances. Regardless of how you’re feeling or what you’re experiencing, you can always choose to look for the good (even if the “good” is simply a life lesson that will ultimately make you stronger) and hope for a better tomorrow.
Happiness may be out of your control.
Positivity is a choice you can always make.
When you’re having a terrible day or something horrific has happened to you, it’s going to be difficult (if not impossible) to be happy. Happiness can sometimes be within your control based on your choices in life, but there are a lot of things we can’t control that cause unhappiness. Positivity is always within our control. Being optimistic — no matter how bad the situation — is a choice. You might be miserable, but with a positive attitude you can still believe that better things are coming and that you can take away something meaningful from every experience.
Happiness is generally short-lived.
Positivity can be ever-present.
Think about the last time you were truly, joyously, can’t-stop-smiling happy. How long did it last? An hour? A day? A week? Happiness, no matter how amazing the cause of it, doesn’t last for long. It’s wonderful and amazing when it happens, but it’s not a state of mind; it’s an emotion. But positivity is different. It’s a mindset, which means that, as long as you continue to work on it and practice it, you can keep it around forever. Happiness is fleeting, but positivity can be ever-lasting.
Happiness is part of a disposition that can be inherited.
Positivity is life-changing skill that can be learned.
Happiness is an emotion, but it’s one that some people are more likely to experience simply based on how they were made. Some people are more likely to be joyful and cheerful, to have inherited a sunny disposition. Unfortunately, some are less likely to have inherited those traits, making the emotion of happiness more elusive. However, that’s no reason to despair, because, regardless of the disposition you’ve inherited, you can learn the art of positivity through practice and patience. It’s not always easy, but it’s much more possible than changing your DNA!
Happiness all the time would be miserable.
Positivity all the time leads to contentment.
Can you imagine what it would be like to be happy ALL the time? In theory, it sounds amazing, but, in reality, there’d be nothing to compare it to, so it wouldn’t seem like anything special. In fact, it would probably be quite maddening if all of the sudden you were given everything you ever wanted and never again felt any emotion other than happiness. Being positive all the time, however, is one of the best ways I’ve found to lead a more contented, accepting life. It’s a skill that will transform every aspect of life — making the happy moments happier and the painful moments less painful.
Happiness is a goal that might not be achieved.
Positivity is a mindset one can adopt with certainty.
No matter how hard you might work toward what you think will bring you happiness — the perfect partner, career, etc. — you might not be able to achieve it because, let’s face it, life is like that sometimes. No matter how badly you want something, it’s not guaranteed. And, once you get that thing, there’s no guarantee it’ll make you feel happy (nor a guarantee on how long it’ll make you feel happy). A positive attitude is a mindset you can choose with certainty, no matter what life throws at you. And, I can 100% assure you that, no matter how bad things get, positivity will only make them better.
As you can see, the differences between happiness and positivity are multitudinous. As many times as they’re interchanged in popular culture, it’s important to remember that they’re not the same thing. Happiness could have you chasing after things for decades, endlessly waiting for the day when everything feels perfect. Positivity will always meet you right where you are, good day or bad day, through all of life’s ups and downs. If you spend your life chasing happiness, you’ll always be on the hunt for something. But if you focus on mastering the skill of positivity, you’ll be able to make the most of wherever you are, whatever comes your way.
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