Happiness vs. Positivity : What's the Difference?

 

Happiness vs Positivity

 

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.


Like what I'm doing here on Positively Present? Sign up for Patreon and support my work! Learn more about it by checking out the Patreon page or my FAQ post. And, of course, you can reach out to me via email if there's anything you want to know more about! 

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Plant Positive Seeds: 3 Stress-Reducing Habits

 

Positively Present - Little Deeds

 

Feeling stressed? Yeah, you're not alone. Most of us experience stress, particularly at this time of year when we're reflecting on the months that have passed and looking forward to the typically-busy months to come. If you're stressed, you're probably thinking of in-the-moment things you can do to quell the chaotic feelings (deep breathing, taking breaks, spa-like activities, etc.), but one of the best ways to combat stress is to develop regular habits that keep you calm. Planting positive seeds in the form of stress-reducing habits can greatly reduce your stress level, in part because you don't have to think about things to help you reduce your stress -- they'll already be habits! 

There are tons of ideas for habits that reduce stress -- eating well, exercising, spending time with loved ones, etc. -- but here are three of my favorite stress-reducing habits that you might want to consider adopting. Even if you're not currently stressed, putting habits like this in place can help you when you're facing stress in the future! 

 

START A GRATITUDE JOURNAL

I'm sure this isn't the first time you've heard "gratitude journal" in connection with stress reduction, but there's a reason that it's a popular topic in the self-help community. Spending time reflecting on what you're thankful for really does help cut down on stress. Studies have shown that gratitude is good for your health and, on a personal level, I've found that tracking things I'm thankful for on a daily basis really does help me feel less stressed. 

 

PICK UP A BUNCH OF FLOWERS

Surrounding yourself with beauty and nature is another great habit to embrace if you want to stress less. New research shows that people who lived with flowers in their homes for just a few days reported a significant decrease in their levels of stress and improvements in their moods. The simple act of making it a habit to have flowers around can help you stress less! This is a great example of how a small habit -- putting some pretty flowers in your home -- can have a meaningful impact on your stress level. 

 

OFFER TO HELP SOMEONE ELSE

Another great habit to consider adopting is regularly helping out others. Whether it's volunteering for a local charity, assisting a coworker, or helping those you love, helping other people is a habit that will cut down on your stress. It might sound counterintuitive -- adding another thing to your to-do list to reduce stress? -- but studies have shown that volunteering is good for your mental health, and the more stable your mental health, the better you'll be able to cope with stress! 

 

Nobody likes being stressed, but hopefully the three habits detailed above will inspire you to consider incorporating a stress-reducing, positive habit into your life on a regular basis. While deep breaths and mindfulness techniques can help combat stress in the moment, it's a good idea to create regular positive habits that will counteract stress without you having to even think about it. So consider adding gratitude journaling into your nightly routine, picking up some flowers on the way home from work, signing up to volunteer (or any other positive habit that cuts down on stress!) and see how simple, small things can have a big impact on your stress level! 

 

 

On StreetThank you to the Society of American Florists (SAF) for kindly sponsoring today's post! Whether it’s paying for a fellow commuter’s toll, or leaving a generous restaurant tip, “paying it forward” and “random acts of kindness” give people hope and inspire kindness towards others. SAF and the whole floral industry is taking part in this movement. It started with a small idea, that grew into everyone wanting to take part. Floral industry members know the power of flowers — they see it every day in their work. Whether to give or receive, flowers make people happy. For more information on the scientifically proven benefits of flowers including new university research on how living with flowers decreases stress, visit www.aboutflowers.com/research.


Positively Predictive Text: Life Advice from My Phone


Positively Present - Could Be Happy

 

"You are amidst all this drama and you can decide to be friends with your life."

That sentence was written using predictive text on my phone. You may have seen the trend that was popular awhile back where people would use predictive text to write their life stories or finish the sentence "I was born...", etc. It was silly and fun and I loved it. Last night I was playing around on my phone and the sentence above came together with predictive text, inspiring me to wonder, What kinds of advice might my phone have for me?

Obviously the advice isn't completely created by my phone since I choose the initial letter of the sentence and choose from three options predicted following each word, but it's still a fun little adventure to see what the phone (and, in reality, the average person since I assume that the predictions come from data gathered?) will suggest. 

As I've been working on my next book on creativity, I keep coming up against the concept of limitations and how, contrary to what we often think, they can be really liberating. As Kierkegaard put it, "Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom." Too much freedom in a creative activity -- writing, drawing, etc., -- can be overwhelming, which is why using the predictive text function is so fun. It limits in a way that's liberating. Plus, it's just fun! 

I highly recommend you give it a go on your own phone, but, before you do, check out some of the life lessons my phone came up with (along with a few thoughts about this predictive-text-driven advice):  

 

Today is the day you can decide what you want.

Ooh, this was a good one! How often do you have an idea / task / dream that you defer to tomorrow? Sometimes it feels like my entire life is just endlessly re-writing the items on my to-do list that I didn't do the day before. Part of the "deferred dream" problem, I think, is that we don't really know what we want. We may or may not spend time thinking about what we want, but true action (and change!) happens when we decide what we want. 

 

The best way of making it work is to do it. 

Alright. So this isn't the most life-changing bit of advice (just a tad cliche, wouldn't you say?), but it is pretty accurate. There's often such a chasm between want we want to happen and what we want to do to make something happen. Sometimes this lack of action is a good thing -- a sign that we're not on the right path and should reconsider -- but avoiding the work is the reason most of us don't have what we want in life. If you want it, do it

 

After a while, it seems like a good idea.

Hmm... I'm not sure if this is (good) advice, but it is relatable. Every bad idea starts out with uncertainty, but the more times I make the same bad choice, the more I start to rationalize it. The more time that passes, the more reasons I can come with for why something might actually be good for me (no matter how obvious the evidence to the contrary). I guess the advice here would be to consider how it was in the beginning and remember that we're really good at rationalizing so it's important to pay attention. 

 

Waste your hours on your phone, but it’s not worth your time. 

Obviously spending less time on your phone is good advice, but let's focus on the second half for a minute. Worth your time. That's an important thing to think about. How do you spend your time each day? Are the activities you engage in (and the people with whom you engage in them) worth your time and effort? It's always a good idea to check in with yourself and make sure you're spending your time wisely! 

 

Get it back to you.

Oh, interesting! I like to think of this one as a reminder not to let other people dominate your story. We're all meant to be the lead characters in our own stories but, depending on who you surround yourself with, you might find your story being dominated by someone else's drama / needs / etc. This ties in with the notion that self-love isn't selfish. If you get yourself in a good place, you can be good for others. 

 

You know how to get out of your way.

This bit of advice is so important. Not everyone knows how to get out of their own way, but most of us have a good idea of what we're doing that's not helpful to the people we want to be. We make choices that aren't healthy or helpful for a variety of reasons, but we frequently know which choices are "bad" for us. Pay attention to what's not working and work on changing it. 

 

Optimism is a little better than the other side.

Intriguing! This one is powerful to me because sometimes I feel like people think that optimism is some cure-all magical potion that will make everything in life perfect. In fact, it's just a mindset that helps to make everything a little bit better -- the highs a little higher and the lows a little less low. It's not a panacea. It's just a little bit better than choosing negativity. 

 

It’ll probably be better tomorrow. 

Yes, yes, yes! When you're going through a difficult day (or days), it can seem as if things will never get better (even when you've been through difficulties before and know, logically, that things have to improve!). I like the "probably" here because, let's be real, sometimes things aren't better tomorrow, but, in my experience, I've found that time -- whether it's getting through the night or through a tough season in life -- does improve things. Keep going. 

 

Stop being what you don’t want to be.

Well, this is certainly good advice! It's not always easy to implement (isn't that the case with all good advice, though?!), but the first step is knowing what you don't want to be. A lot of the time we focus on what we want to be, which is great and can help us move forward in a positive direction, but what about what we don't want to be. Knowing that can be really useful too! 

 

After everything, you could be happy.

I don't know why, but this one made me tear up a little bit! There's something so hopeful about it and yet the "could" makes it seem like happiness is still uncertain. It also makes it seem like happiness is a choice, like it might be chosen from a bin of options for how you could be in the future. I like the sadness that I'm reading in this one, even if it's meant to be hopeful. (It's not "meant" to be anything other than what you want it to be, I suppose!)

 

Make it easier for yourself.

Another good one! How often do we make it harder on ourselves than we need it to be? How often do we stay in negative situations because we're afraid of the unknown? Or set ourselves up for failure by making choices that might feel good in the moment but will later lead to regret? As someone who tries to stay in the present, sometimes it's hard to set up the future so it'll be easier on me, but this bit of advice made me think about what I can do now to make life easier on my future self. 

 

I hope you have something to learn today.

Not so much advice, this last one is more of a statement, but it's still a good one. I'm personally obsessed with learning. What I'm learning about shifts depending on where I am in my life, but I'm always striving to know something now that I didn't know the yesterday. The thought of not continuing to grow or learn -- or the notion that their wouldn't be something to learn (brought to mind by the word "hope" here) -- saddens me and reminds me to make an effort to keep pursing knowledge about myself and the world. 

 

I had a lot of fun making this post and I'd highly recommend playing around with the predictive text on your phone (and it's now coming to Gmail, too!) to see what kinds of insights you can uncover. While the phone does provide some limits and ideas, the end result ends up telling you more about your own inner dialogue than it does about the inner workings of the device in your hand. Give it a go -- and if you come across any inspiring words of wisdom, leave 'em in the comments below! 

 

Like what I'm doing here on Positively Present? Sign up for Patreon and support my work! Learn more about it by checking out the Patreon page or my FAQ post. And, of course, you can reach out to me via email if there's anything you want to know more about! 

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