If you feel like you should be more happy, or don’t understand why you are not happy all the time this post might be for you. After years of recovery work, therapy, meditation, a successful career, and entrepreneurial success, I thought I would be happy all the time. I was no longer suffering from depression or a constant need to act out in addiction. My life was going pretty well and I would occasionally seem to enjoy it. However, I did not really consider myself happy. I assumed when I fixed all my problems and got my world in order I would automatically be happy all the time, but that is not how it worked for me.
I discovered my emotional state can carry a lot of momentum or stored energy. I will use the analogy of flywheel effect. A flywheel is a heavy wheel used to moderate motion in a machine with its inertia. Imagine a large heavy wheel you can spin with your hands but weighs more than you do. It will take great effort to get the wheel moving initially, but as you keep giving it a push it will slowly pick up speed. Once you have it spinning at a decent rate it is easy to keep it going. However, if you want to change its direction you will first have to put a lot of energy into it to slow it down, eventually bring it to a stop, and then slowly start building up speed in the opposite direction.
Our emotional energy is very much like the flywheel. During the day I may be exposed to many negative thoughts and ideas from family, friends, co-workers, social media, or just worst of all…just about any news media. All of these little things are putting little bits of negative energy into my emotional wheel. Due to my history, I lack habitual positive thinking on my own so it is easy to get my wheel spinning in a negative direction. This results in my mood tending to be negative, not because I am broken and suffering from depression, but simply because I am not tending to my emotional wheel.
If I want to be happy I have to make sure my emotional wheel is spinning in a positive direction. That means I have to be putting more positive energy into it than negative energy. Either I have to think a lot more positive thoughts than the negative ones I am being exposed to or I have to be better at avoiding the negative ones. For me this takes a little bit of effort. As I continue to practice this it becomes more natural and does not take as much energy. When I am more diligent about keeping my emotional mood in a more positive state, or putting more energy in my emotional wheel, the less likely a little bad news will knock me back into a negative mood. If I do notice my wheel slowing down, the sooner I start putting extra positive energy into it the easier it is to get back into a more positive mood.
If something bad happens with a lot of negative energy, it can prompt me to go into a negative mood. The initial negative mood will help prompt further negative thinking. Each negative thought I have adds a little more negative energy bringing me lower and lower. If I don’t break the cycle I can end up in full on depression and start thinking it is the end of the world. Due to my past history, this sort of negative thinking is very natural and easy for me. With a large amount of negative energy or momentum built up in my emotional wheel, it will now take a lot of energy to stop it and change the direction back to a positive one. Sadly, when depressed, extra energy is the last thing I have. Having realized this I can have more compassion for people who are depressed or in really low states. It can take an amazing amount of energy to come out of such a state and advice like “just snap out of it” is totally useless.
The good news is my lack of happiness was just due to me not being in the habit of maintaining it while living in a world where it is so easy to find so much negativity. Note, I did not say while living in a negative world. I believe I can find positivity or negativity and my intention is learn to make finding positive thoughts about my world much more of a habit so I can more naturally be happy.