Are People Naturally Happy or Unhappy?
I want to know why am I so unhappy?
Why can’t I be happy most of the time – some people are, why not me?
What is the difference between happy people and unhappy people?
Was I Born Unhappy?
Are some people just naturally happy and others naturally unhappy?
Are we born with a tendency toward one or the other?
Or, do life lessons create the happy or unhappy people that we become?
I believe it is the latter.
Watch a small child for a few minutes – being happy is their norm unless it is destroyed either gradually or quickly by circumstances or angry, unhappy parents.
Being happy is a child’s natural state – being unhappy is learned.
Let me tell you a story that may explain my opinion.
Happy or Unhappy Family
A few months ago, my daughter asked me if I thought we were generally an unhappy family? I was hurt at first — then sad. She had struck a chord that was difficult to hear
I struggled with the answer and finally ended up thinking, “I’m not sure. I can’t describe us as “one big happy family.” I would say we are an indifferent family more than anything else. Does that make us unhappy? Maybe.
The question haunted me.
We aren’t angry people. We’re not mean to each other. We don’t talk about one another or have ongoing family squabbles.
We are a group of healthy, strong, and resilient individuals. We all enjoy great food and interesting conversations, but shared laughter is infrequent. We like each other but words of affection are rare. When we are together, it is pleasant but not joyful. There have been no family gatherings for years; they don’t seem to be important enough for everyone to make it a priority.
Does that make us a terrible family? No, but it does push us toward the category of an unhappy family rather than a happy one. It’s certainly not the family relationships I had dreamed of when I was young.
Sadly, I think I am the root of our family dynamic.
A mother should be the heart of the home, the glue that holds a family together — I didn’t do that for my family. I didn’t know how to build strong, happy, loving relationships. I had no personal model on which to build because of hurtful experiences when I was a young child.
Truth be told — I now realize I am an unhappy person, and my family paid the price.
In my old age, I’m reaping what I sowed.
I live on the periphery of my children’s lives as an obligatory responsibility. They stay distantly connected because it is the right thing to do — I am a decent person and I am their mother, but that is where it ends.
The Good Life ≠ Happiness
By most standards, I’ve lived a good life. So — why am I unhappy?
I’ve always been healthy, strong, and rarely ill. I didn’t break a bone until I was 80 years old when I fell and broke my left wrist and cracked a vertebra. Even then I was lucky. I fully recovered without any residual problems.
I am intelligent, educated, and was always able to take care of myself and my family; but personal happiness was not part of the mix.
Now, in the fourth quarter of my life, my sadness and unhappiness deepen with each passing day.
I am financially OK. I live in a nice little house with a small mortgage — enough income from social security and savings to sustain me for a few years if I need it, and I work part-time for my daughter to supplement my income. I still have a healthy body and a fully functioning mind. I am physically comfortable and completely independent.
Yes, I struggle with typical old-age problems — vision and a slight hearing loss, balance issues, and thinning hair, but I have no serious health issues.
My only complaint is that I am alone and lonely with no friends or social life. Until the pandemic hit, If I wanted to have social interaction, I would run errands and strike up conversations with clerks and people standing in line while I’m waited for my coffee at Starbucks — believe me…. it’s better than nothing. And now, even that is gone.
My son lives three miles away and always helps me when I need him. I get 10 or 15 minutes of conversation each week when he drops off his daughter for movie night each Friday or comes by to do things I can no longer handle. Even though I would love to spend more time with him, I’m grateful that he is always there for me.
I have lived a lovely life for the most part — and yet, I have practically no happy memories.
My unhappiness makes me feel guilty because my challenges and struggles have been minuscule compared to many others, but it is my reality.
I think to myself, “I should be happy with the life I’ve lived and the many years I’ve been given, and yet, I feel nothing but sadness and deep regret.”
It makes me wonder if I have ever been happy. Maybe once-upon-a-time, many years ago.
How About You?
Have you ever asked yourself . . . ”Am I a naturally happy or unhappy person?”
Whatever the answer, follow it with:
- “Why am I happy?” OR “Why am I unhappy?”
- “How has that affected my life? ”
These are powerful introspective questions that can help you understand yourself better. The answers may be energizing or disturbing depending on what they are; but accept them as personal feedback that you can choose to use, or not. Maybe uncovering the answers will simply lighten your mental baggage a little . . . and a little always helps!
Keep on . . . keeping on!