Women’s Health – September 2016 – Bursting the Happiness Myth

Happiness has become a very modern status symbol. But, asks Lizzie Pook, is striving for it actually making you miserable?

In our social media-driven society, unhappiness has become something to be avoided at all costs. The message that we must pursue a state of ecstasy has never been more prevalent; radiating from self-help books, promoted by pharmaceutical companies, spilling forth from sun-dappled inflatable swans on our Instagram feeds. Many economists and national leaders now push to measure success through happiness, not financial worth, changing the way many see life’s accomplishments.

As happiness has like everything else in our western culture, been commodified, sadness on the other hand has become somewhat stigmatised. “This “happiness culture” can mean that we’re less likely to tolerate other negative emotions such as boredom, anxiety and guilt…” says Tim Lomas, lecturer in Applied Positive Psychology at the University of East London.

Some experts believe we are starting to medicate being unhappy, which everyone experiences, rather than legitimate clinical depression which is of course very separate. Dr Shamila Moodley, consultant psychiatrist at Nightingale Hospital London explains how to recognise depression rather than general sadness with four points including predominating negative and cynical thoughts, biological symptoms, feelings of worthlessness and a duration of symptoms lasting more than four weeks.

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