Books on the pursuit of happiness have multiplied over recent years and have led to a real ‘Happy’ bandwagon. People are now obsessed with the idea of being happy, and are willing to do just about anything to achieve happiness, but this relies on a deceptively challenging process.
Happiness is a much more complex concept than we may think. The vast majority of the self-help books out there offer the promise of magical solutions and provide precise instructions, while trying to sell us the idea that happiness is not only attainable, but that it can be achieved through positive thinking alone.
If it really were that simple, the world would be a much happier place, and there would be no need to keep filling our bookshelves with self-help manuals. The world, however, is very clearly teeming with unhappy people who are trying to find a solution to their unhappiness by reading, studying, and implementing the instructions in these books. It seems, though, that these happiness gurus always fail to provide that one piece of critical advice that would really help everyone lead a happy life, almost as if a few steps are missing, and this leaves people feeling emotionally and psychologically stuck.
According to writer and journalist Oliver Burkeman, the problem is our approach to happiness. Positive thinking leaves no room for negative thinking, and this ends up becoming part of the problem itself. If we only recognise positive thinking, and exclude any kind of negative thinking or emotion, such as the fear of failure or making mistakes, it becomes harder to achieve our goals. It means that we are unable to manage these negative emotions when we eventually have to face them, and we give up trying to be happy.
This is why, when we rely purely on positive thinking, it tends to hold us back. If we do not accept and embrace our negative feelings, such as sadness or the fear of uncertainty or failure, it feeds the moods that we want to avoid in the first place. This leads us to become more anxious, insecure, and unhappy, which in turn fuels the demand for more and more self-help books.