Unhappiness is good for you


It’s hard to confess to you that I’m happy on the farm. The Farmer and I are getting along well, and all that research about how if parents are in a happy marriage the kids are happier — well, that seems to be true for us.

So I spend my days writing career advice and reading about goats and figuring out how to make enough unleavened desserts to keep the Farmer from hating Passover. When I need a break from thinking, I plant my vegetables in perfectly straight rows and hope for no more snow.

The thing is, though, that it is not my nature to be sunny and bright.

Now there’s a study to support my instincts toward stress and anxiety. According to Leslie Martin, author of the new book, The Longevity Project, stress and anxiety that arise from working hard at something that is engaging and exciting to you is actually a more healthy way to live than in a regular state of cheerfulness.

There’s a lot of talk about happiness, and how to get it. Of course, I obsess about it on my blog, but, to be clear, I had decided happiness is lame, and we should not be trying to get it.

Fortunately, I don’t think other people are really looking for happiness either. For example, there is an insane cover story in Psychology Today billed as Four Secrets of Happy Families.

One overachiever NYC family in the article has a daughter so obsessed with gymnastics that she practices every day after school while her mom drives to New Haven each week to teach at Yale. Seriously, this is a happy family? I don’t think so. I think this is a family full of people who are engaged and passionate about their own stuff. There are scheduling conflicts all week. Family dinners once a week are an accomplishment.

The thing is that I don’t think it matters. As a society, we are not actually all that interested in happiness. If we were, people would stop relocating for jobs, people would stop eating french fries, and people would stop scheduling their kids for activities that happen close to dinnertime. If anything, I think people are focused on hiding the fact that they desperately want more money and more passion in their lives even though it’s not fashionable to admit it.

And all the research about how money doesn’t buy happiness: I think get it, but we are unable to act on the news because we are programmed to want THINGS and money buys things. If we were satisfied with what we had, in cavemen times, we’d die as soon as there was a food shortage. Cavepeople always needed to feel like they needed more more more no matter how much they had in order to survive dry spells. So we can intellectually know that money doesn’t make us happier, but it doesn’t change our DNA. Embedded in our DNA is the sense that we always need to earn 15% more than we are currently earning.

So here’s the research: You earn 15% more and then you hang out with people a little richer, and then you don’t feel as rich because rich is relative, and then you get that semi-rational urge to earn more money again. We can’t help it.

This conundrum reminds me of how we know that hot women are not better in bed, confident women are better in bed. But it doesn’t stop men who are looking for a one-night stand to try hardest for the hottest girl.

So you might wonder, are you really happy and you just don’t know it? The answer is no. And that’s good news. Because look, the Longevity Project says you’d be closer to dead if you were closer to happy.

I am not sure why we are even talking about happiness when Sonia Lyubomirsky shows that 2/3 of our happiness level is predetermined by our genes. If you are an optimist you are more happy, if you are a pessimist you are less happy. It’s a spectrum. You can work hard to change that last third, but instead, why not work hard to find what you are passionate about?

Which is why I don’t feel settled on the farm. I keep looking around for the next thing I’m going to do that’s going to disrupt things. I’m passionate about disruptions, because when you find a new way to think about something you thought was true, that’s disruptive and interesting.

Like, I’m thinking maybe it won’t be so bad if my goats eat my vegetables, because then I’ll have an interesting problem to solve. I read a blog that said I can keep goats from eating something by spraying their pee on it. The idea of spraying my spinach with goat pee does not make me happy, but that it might work is fascinating to me.

83 replies
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  1. Alison Green
    Alison Green says:

    I’ve been unhappy and I’ve been happy. Unhappy sucked. Happy is pretty amazing. Happy means being fundamentally at peace, in your core, regardless of what might be happening externally, and there’s not a single thing that measures up to that.

    I think you can be happy and still searching for new challenges, and I think you can be unhappy and confused about what would make you happy, both of which I think you’re ID’ing in this article, but drawing different conclusions.

    • Chris M.
      Chris M. says:

      “I think you can be happy and still searching for new challenges, and I think you can be unhappy and confused about what would make you happy, both of which I think you’re ID’ing in this article, but drawing different conclusions.”

      Exactly my thoughts. I love disruption (and sometimes I’m overworked because I can’t say no to an interesting project — mine are always related to patent-generating innovations).

      However, I feel extremely happy with my life. I don’t have kids but never wanted them, so a fast-paced life doesn’t make me feel guilty (which I’m sure is a problem for other overachiever mothers). My husband and I do have dinner together but may both get back to work afterwards because our work is very interesting and I don’t treat it as “work”.

      Equating happiness with not looking for disruption or creative, challenging work seems completely illogical to me.

  2. Leslie
    Leslie says:

    I love your hat! I am usually happy when wearing the appropriate clothes for whatever I am doing at the moment.

  3. ContentedCows
    ContentedCows says:

    I hope you’re selling tickets to the training where you teach goats to selectively pee on spinach in a perfectly straight line:-)

    • Pirate Jo
      Pirate Jo says:

      I see what you are saying with this. I know someone who is always cheerful, because she spends her time in a perpetual state of self-delusion. I think walking around with that level of cognitive dissonance in my head would be stressful. For me, it is easier to just admit that the bad stuff is real. Besides, rose-colored glasses don’t exactly cure cancer.

  4. Columbiarose
    Columbiarose says:

    Real happiness is a byproduct of choosing near term to take on the un-fun work toward a greater good, for seeking virtue, for maxims that work, following your passion(s). Happiness that comes from alleviating discomfort (fast food, retail therapy…) or trying to avoid things or issues or people that may make you uncomfortable is short lived, not to mention dull.

  5. Karl Staib - Party Biz Connect
    Karl Staib - Party Biz Connect says:

    I decided to change the direction of my company a little bit because I wanted to focus more on money and excitement. It’s more stressful, but also more fun.

    We instinctively understand the value of exploring our curiosity. If we didn’t we would have been fine hunting, gathering and having sex, but we weren’t. We needed more. Is it better? Probably not, but it is more interesting.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Such an insightful observation, Karl. Thinking about what is hard coded into our DNA is fascinating to me.


      • Pirate Jo
        Pirate Jo says:

        Penelope, have you spent much time studying evolutionary psychology? The blogger Amy Alkon hits upon it a lot, which got me kind of interested in it, too.

  6. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    I’m with you. I think we find happiness in contrast. Meaning, we wouldn’t be happy if we were always happy. We would strive for a disruption to create the contrast.

  7. Wayne Allen
    Wayne Allen says:

    I suspect it’s dropping the “shoulds” “I should be happy,” and learning that how it is, is how it is. Once I get that, I can choose to move from there, as opposed to sitting in it, or hoping that the “miracle fairy” is going to show up.
    Chop woo, carry water, spray goat pee” — very zen!!! Palms together to you, as usual!

  8. jim
    jim says:

    I quit looking for happy when my marriage failed. I started looking for a satisfying balance — interesting things to do, enough leisure time, enough time with my kids, well-paying enough job to fund it all. As all of this slid into place, I found reasonable contentment.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Howard, it’s so nice to see you commenting here– always fun to see the author weigh in. Thanks for more information about the research behind the book.


  9. Amy Parmenter
    Amy Parmenter says:

    I think the best thing about being unhappy is that it motivates you to create change. Unless you are simply one of those people who is happy being unhappy. There’s lots of that.

    And, for the record, I am not the least bit happy about Passover. It makes me cranky. Maybe that’s because I don’t do the unlevened desserts thing…it seems like cheating. But I would love a macaroon right about now…

    Amy Parmenter
    The ParmFarm

    • Tzipporah
      Tzipporah says:

      OK, that’s crazy. It’s a holiday. You’re not supposed to feel like a slave, you’re supposed to feel like a FREED slave. How can you enjoy yourself when you’re still oppressing yourself?

      Especially when there’s matzah crack. (Matzah + toffee + chocolate)

      Admint it, you’re wavering a little.

  10. Michelle
    Michelle says:

    Does anyone think the pace of technology has anything to do with one’s happiness levels?
    Being constantly attached to some electronic devise, especially the web? I work at home on a computer all day and I have felt that over the years I’ve spent on the computer it has effected everything about me especially my ability to focus. It’s an interesting thought. For anyone who is interested in checking out a great documentary on happiness watch this when you get a chance.


  11. Tzipporah
    Tzipporah says:

    My happiest time over the last couple weeks was helping my husband edit his thesis, ripping it apart and putting it back together. It was great to be so engaged in something together – that’s been missing from our relationship for a while. It also makes me realize how disengaged and disinterested I am in my day job, and how much that’s ruining my outlook on everything.

  12. Bill
    Bill says:

    Does anyone but me question a study conducted on less than a thousandth of one percent of today’s US population (0.000483……. Geez, so infinitesimal that I can’t even confidently do the math.)and spread over several generations and multitudes of intermixed cultures, and probably 15 new and changing economic and medical environments… not to mentioned that it was compiled by what would be the children or grandchildren of the now dead originators?

    P.T. Barnum was right. Someone just sold another book.

  13. Gib Wallis
    Gib Wallis says:

    Penelope, you mention the study about happy parents and kids. Is your ex happy, too? Or is the farmer happy enough to overcome an unhappy ex as far as kids are concerned?

    It seems you’re saying one cannot be busy, passionate, overscheduled, stressed, and happy. But when I look back on periods of my life that were the happiest, I was busy, passionate, overscheduled, and happy. I was stressed too, but a different kind of stressed than the no job, broken heart, death in the family, health issue kind of stressed.

    You seem a lot happier the last couple of months so I hope you don’t reread too many of the “screw happiness” research and decide you should give it up.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Yeah. Good question about the Ex. I’m certain that kids want to see both parents — both Ex’s — happy. We have a very good relationship in that we still parent together in my house, and we eat family dinners together — Farmer, Ex, me and the kids — each week.

      But, alas, I don’t know about the Ex’s happiness. And, I can’t stress enough how lame I think divorce is. Unless there is violence in the marriage, divorce always harms the kids more than helps them.

      Judith Wallerstein’s book is full of amazing data to back this up that no one likes to talk about. Here’s the link:



      • mysticaltyger
        mysticaltyger says:


        I really like how you tell the harsh truth about divorce, even though you’re divorced yourself. If more people were willing to own up to their shortcomings, the world would be a much better place!

    • Izzy
      Izzy says:

      Gib has hit it right on the head for me in my current situation. Marriage is ending, mom is dying of cancer and that situation in itself is horrific on it’s own, never mind the fallout at home.
      “I was stressed too, but a different kind of stressed than the no job, broken heart, death in the family, health issue kind of stressed.”
      While I have a job and it’s a good one, depending on your choice of work, it isn’t taking care of my head and distracting me right now so it’s brutal to come in and try to concentrate. I usually feel like my mind is a frog in a blender…I can’t see my way out of where I am. My days are full of pain and crying and anxiety. So unhappiness isn’t good for me at least not lately, unless it’s to make damn sure I know when I’m not unhappy. Other than that it totally sucks…and hurts like hell.

  14. Derek Dostal
    Derek Dostal says:

    I think the collecting of the goat pee is a bit more disgusting thought than spraying.

    I enjoyed the questions your article raised about happiness and the pursuit thereof. Some people are very happy being miserable while some are only happy when they block out all reality. It certainly seems that happiness is not a state but a path that keeps changing.

    I worry more about contentment. It seems to bring with it weight gain and laziness.

  15. Dorothy
    Dorothy says:

    I always seeking after disruptions meant you were a drama addict. The idea that it really means you’re just interested in doing something you’re passionate about is interesting. Or do you mean that disruptions themselves are what people are passionate about?

    My husband is one of those passionate people. He loves stability and I love disruption and change, but now that I’m a stay-at-home mom I feel like it’s part of my job description to be stable. So I get my change from bouncing from one hobby to the next. He hates it, but maybe this is an interesting way to sell him on the idea and get him to embrace my discontent.

    Oh, and since I’ve been focused on finding and actually doing hobbies that give me an opportunity to “flow,” I’ve been really, really happy.

  16. DrGitzza
    DrGitzza says:

    When you start looking at life as a battle between happy or unhappy, yes, it will be hard to cheer for the first one. Because you will lose, and nobody likes to lose. You’re right in the sense that love of money will ruin you – and kill you early – €“ that's what it seems you mean by happiness.

    But to start swinging the unhappiness boomerang to mean that we should just be content with the status quo, as sucky and tough as that is… that’s a tough proposition. Yeah, I know life sucks, but I will keep hoping every day that my entire family eats dinner together every day, that we take walks here and there, and we do this and that. Just because we have schedule conflicts it doesn't mean that I will just sit idle and not seek to improve the consequences of that just because happiness kills early.

    Life is not either happy or unhappy. We need to stop looking at life through either #1 or #2 glasses. We may not need glasses at all. Or we may need sun glasses, or sunscreen! The level of happiness is like the degree of cloudiness in the sense that it reflects the environment, it affects some decisions, but it's definitely not a goal in itself. Because if that would be the case we'd all study to be experts in rain-causing-fireworks or cloud-dissipation-strategies.

    Bu I completely agree – it’s good to be focused and driven. Just be careful, the acid in the goat pee may kill your vegetables.

    I hope you take this as a healthy challenge… I like you thoughtfulness and I do read your blog quite often – relatively speaking :).

  17. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I knew this research sounded familiar to me so I did some searching around and found the source where I had heard it. It was on a short radio segment on the Radio Health Journal that I listen to on Sunday mornings. It was last Sunday and the audio segment is titled ‘How personality affects longevity’ at http://www.radiohealthjournal.net/ .
    I’ve also recently learned that small breaks from sitting can aid heart health ( http://tinyurl.com/4a8tvht ). It doesn’t replace regular exercise as the article mentions but it does help.

  18. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    I wish you joy. Happiness has been chewed up and spit out like old gum. But the moment when your heart lifts from your chest, and you know you are glad you were born, that’s pretty good. I hope your kids have a wonderful summer.

  19. GE Miller
    GE Miller says:

    The one point I disagree on is:
    “As a society, we are not actually all that interested in happiness. If we were, people would stop relocating for jobs, people would stop eating french fries”

    The ONLY reason to relocate is to seek happiness, be it through more money, a fresh start, getting out of a bad work environment, etc. We move b/c we think more happiness will result. We are often wrong in that assumption though.

    And french fries? Not sure I see the connection.

    People make decisions that they think will make them happy all the time. It just turns out that we’re almost always wrong as to what that is.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Relocating to earn more money doesn’t work.

      You would need to earn $133K more from a new job in order to not see a net decrease in happiness when you relocated away from friends and family toward more money. This research is from Nattavudh Powdthavee at the University of London, but has been affirmed by research from many US-based sociologists and economists as well.


  20. Diana
    Diana says:

    You have the best links. I’m glad to hear that unhappiness is good for you because I don’t think I have ever felt satisfied, even as a little girl! My mantra has always been, “More, please.”

  21. raķešu smadzenēs
    raķešu smadzenēs says:

    The old quote is — “money can’t buy happiness.” Maybe it should be, “money can’t GUARANTEE happiness.”

    And maybe it can’t. But serious poverty, so that money for food and shelter and a bathroom to wash in — serious poverty can pretty much guarantee many hours of the day being not happy.

    And then there’s the other old saying. “Money can’t buy happiness. People with ten million dollars are no happier than people with eight million.”

    And BTW, probably you mean unleavened DESSERTS, not deserts?

  22. Paul
    Paul says:

    Columbiarose is right about happiness being temporary when it merely relieves distress or avoids anxiety. Unfortunately, people with depression turn into addicts for this kind of happiness. It gets us thru the day.

    Working to bring about more lasting happiness is another matter entirely – it seems to require you to abandon that short-term focus and take on the burden of depression unrelieved, so that whatever you do to turn your life around must be done with your hope and self-worth at low ebb.

    Your one way out of this catch-22 is when depression becomes desperation, which at least has an adrenal rush it brings. But you don’t know what’s best for you – or even good for you – when in desperation.

    So the depressive person must avoid the inadvisable and embrace the intolerable – work on life with a discipline that, day to day, seems actively cruel. Say to yourself, “You do not have the luxury of believing in yourself. You do not have the reserves of emotional enery. You do not have the faith that anything can change. Your only hope is if you can force yourself thru the motions – over and over and over. Roll the rock uphill knowing it will roll down – again and again and again.

    “Because rolling that rock uphill – over and over and over – is the only chance you have that someday things may be different. And every time you stop because you are hurt or exhausted or cannot go on just adds another day to your sentence, and subtracts one from your life.

    “You already live most of the time in hell. But you will never work your way out until you move in full-time.”

  23. Irving Podolsky
    Irving Podolsky says:

    There’s UNHAPPY, and there’s HAPPY, and then there’s ME, on a good day when I’m not UNhappy. Because generally, unhappiness for me is generated by worrying about the future and not having enough of anything I might be running out of. Mostly it’s money. But it could be time or validation. Thank God it’s not love. So when I’m NOT concerned with uncertainty and feel confident that it’s all going to work out, I move to LEVEL TWO, which a feeling of BALANCE and FOCUS. I don’t know, maybe most people would call that “happy” but it’s not for me, ’cause when I do get those flashes of happiness, and they don’t happen often, it’s a rush of excitement and bliss. It’s exhileration! And I actually smile. And then after a minute or two I go back to “normal” – contentment.


    PS: Those fast flashes of happiness are happening a little more often these days. And I’m not on drugs. Okay, single malt scotch.

  24. Celine
    Celine says:

    Unhappiness sucks! No matter how you rationalize it, sugarcoat it, drug it, drink it, it STILL SUCKS. I liked you last post but this one is on the wrong track again.

  25. chris Keller
    chris Keller says:

    Seems to me that happiness is composed of small flares, as if striking a sulfur match. The flares dazzle and then decline. More flares, more decline. And it is only in the long term, when you add up the flares and see that they have occurred regularly over a long period of time, that you finally say, “I am happy”. In between, of course, there were declines, periods of smaller and larger depressive episodes.

    So happiness is not continuous nor consistent. And we make mistakes over and over about what will make us happy, and what we should reach for. It seems as if happy is a learning curve, that we take a lifetime to “learn happiness”.

  26. Sandra Pawula
    Sandra Pawula says:

    There’s a big difference between transitory happiness based on external factors like money, possession, and sensory experiences and true happiness. True happiness is beyond transitory experiences. It comes from within. All those studies have no clue about it.

  27. awiz8
    awiz8 says:

    Another post where Penelope attempts to create something interesting out of the fact that she can’t find happiness on the farm and with the Farmer. Sounds like a LOT of sour grapes to me.

    It’s readily apparent that she wouldn’t know what happiness would be like as a long term state, if it bit her in the butt, so she attempts to justify her unhappiness as “interesting”, and “good for you.”

    Hogwash! I’ve been happy and unhappy, and like Alison said, unhappy sucks while happy is amazing. I see no good reason to suffer with unhappiness if I don’t have to. It isn’t good for you, and while it may be interesting, so is a 747 crash site. And it surely isn’t good for those around you either.

    You can be unhappy and interesting if you like. It is your choice. I prefer to be happy and interesting.

  28. linda Clark
    linda Clark says:

    i’m with you. i don’t want to eat spinach with goat pee on it. and placing dog poop near my flowers isn’t worth it to me–let the deer eat them. i like to dig in the dirt and smell the dirt–not goat pee or dog poop.

  29. KateNonymous
    KateNonymous says:

    I think an awful lot of people are involved in the pursuit of happiness. That’s not the same as being happy. But how do they know that what they’re pursuing will actually make them happy? And what do they miss when they’re looking in the wrong direction?

    • Margaret Goerig
      Margaret Goerig says:

      I think that sometimes it’s just the action of pursuing it that makes someone happy, Kate. I personally hate standing still when something is not right, so if I feel discontented with a moment, I’d rather be trying something to change it, right or wrong, rather than just wallowing in it and doing nothing. As for missing whatever it is that I don’t have, because I am maybe looking in the wrong direction, I think that I might have been more worried about that in the past, until I stopped stressing so much about being wrong. Most situations are reversible and when I’m less concerned with what I’m going to lose, I find it easier to follow an unknown path, because I figure at the very worst, I’ll just learn something new.

      • KateNonymous
        KateNonymous says:

        I agree with you, kind of. A lot of other people are pursuing because they’re not willing to look at what would REALLY make them happy. Some people are made happy by the pursuit. Some people are intensely dissatisfied by it, and yet aren’t willing or able to take that step back and say, “Is this working for me? And if not, what might work better?”

        It’s that question that’s important, not constant pursuit by all.

      • Margaret Goerig
        Margaret Goerig says:

        That’s a good point, Kate, and it reminds me of what PT has talked about on here before, how you often have to make changes to yourself and they’re really hard– the hardest, even. And if I just totally made that up and she didn’t say that, then someone else did and whoever did say it, it’s true. So yeah, it does take a lot of self-awareness and honesty to ask that question and then answer it, too. It might also take a long time.

  30. Beverley
    Beverley says:

    What is happiness? For different people it means different things… and I’m not sure it means “sunny and bright” for you, though when I am happy I am sunny and bright or cheerful. Those are just random expressions that are associated with happiness, but not happiness itself.

    For me happiness is associated with a feeling of control about my present, optimism about the future, working on new projects, learning new skills,a good work out, making a plan, brainstorming to find a solution, clothes that fit, a moment of clarity, helping someone, my son getting an illustration published… and reading your blog, critically!!

    You remind me of some of the most entertaining people I know/knew… you can argue anything in the most convincing way and people take you seriously.

    Are you testing us?

  31. Jeremiah Stanghini
    Jeremiah Stanghini says:

    Interesting piece about people not interested in being happy, but rather, being more passionate about something. Unintentionally, I think you’ve advocated that people read Ken Robinson’s book, “The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything.” I think you’ll find it quite validating.

    With Love and Gratitude,


  32. Margaret Goerig
    Margaret Goerig says:

    I’m kind of an optimist but I have a confession, and in the interest of not spoiling it for the 30 people who have not seen the movie, I won’t name the title, but when I think of absolute and total peace & contentment with everything within one’s personal existence, I think of this scene where the lead character is smiling at a photo illustrating what he has in life, and it’s the first time in the entire film that we see him look happy, and then he gets shot in the back of the head.

  33. Jim C.
    Jim C. says:

    You can have a garden or you can have goats, but not both in the same place.
    There’s an easy solution. Put a 7-foot deer fence around your garden. It’s an easy project, and that plastic deer netting is cheap and lightweight. Then you’ll have spinach that doesn’t taste like goat urine.
    Your husband will probably be happy to set the fenceposts and help you string the netting.

  34. Alex @ Happiness in this World
    Alex @ Happiness in this World says:

    You write, “As a society, we are not actually all that interested in happiness,” but I can’t agree. I think the drive to become happy motivates every choice we make. Where we go wrong is in the methods we employ to achieve it. As you rightly point out, things like wealth, a good job, and avoiding stress are only part of the answer (and seem to add to happiness rather than subtract from it only when viewed from a perspective that doesn’t overvalue them). Studies are beginning to show (look at some of Bruce Headley’s work) that to increase our long-term happiness we should be focusing not on accumulating things external to ourselves (we habituate to the joy of having such things rapidly) but on cultivating certain behaviors and attitudes (e.g., altruism). To even define happiness adequately would require a book-length discourse, but it remains unclear to me why you seem to have assumed an interesting life and a happy life are mutually exclusive.

  35. toranosuke
    toranosuke says:

    Man has the obligation to become happy.
    Because the god is heavy, a person’s all over the world spending happy every day with the parent and child and the married couple :.

  36. toranosuke
    toranosuke says:

    Man thinks that I have been made the best use of in the power of nature.
    The book has the person in it not is and the gym and the school of the house in the place where it suffers from a East Japan great earthquake and the victim goes and doesn’t have the classroom even if it wants to teach it today. A lot of people die due to the great earthquake and people who lost the family are spending the time of perplexity. I have not thought that it is such welcome that coming out of water and the light light up up to now.
    An important thing was naturally learnt.

  37. claude anderson
    claude anderson says:

    Since collecting the goat repellant might not be an assignment to make anyone happy, engaged or passionate, I contemplate the appropriate device to simplify this task. If your goats are predominately one gender, only 1 design might be necessary.

  38. Janeegib
    Janeegib says:

    Reading this made me happy. Was it Descartes or Seth Godin that said “I am happy, therefore I comment.

  39. barbara de vries
    barbara de vries says:

    I like this blog because it echos the kind of thoughts you have when doing something mindless – manual labor like planting a garden. The mind goes round and round, having a conversation with itself about whether it is happy or not, whether it could be happier, when it was happiest, why other people seem happier, kind of an inner Facebook wall dialog where everybody’s random posts on what makes them happy or success pop up. Personally I find those family dinners over rated. We have or could have them every night, but with all three daughters, husband and me at the table it inevitably ends up in a fight – Daddy finishes someone else’s last bite of hot dog off their plate, a glass of juice is spilled directly into the salad bowl, oldest daughter eats with face in plate like dog & bowl, twins fight over who said what first and I am UNHAPPY that we cannot get through dinner without a fight. But when we do, occasionally, I am happy. Like yesterday’s Easter breakfast was close to perfect. Which means that for me happiness relates to unhappiness. Like if I had never been unhappy so was happy ALL the time, would I be happy or simple be? I think happiness feels best and most gratifying in contrast to unhappiness.

  40. Dave
    Dave says:

    Unhappiness can be a kick in the pants to get you moving, but I’d argue that you are not really unhappy if you are struggling effectively against something you want to change. Real unhappiness is being stuck and that is NOT good for you.

  41. Will
    Will says:

    It is unhappiness, lack of fulfillment that drives change. Happiness is relative and if you assume everything should be “happy” whatever that means well you spin into the cycle of being unhappy. The word passion is now so overused that it has almost lost it’s true meaning. However, what is the purpose of the change, the passion — the intrinsic purpose? Not the surface — which is when I work at a good job with good pay and passion I will be happy.

  42. Chris
    Chris says:

    I have to disagree with this statement: “Unless there is violence in the marriage, divorce always harms the kids more than helps them. ”

    There’s always another study to cite and recent articles and books I’ve been reading come to the conclusion that it’s not divorce that’s bad for kids, it’s conflict. Here’s one of several that I’ve seen recently:

    I also am suspicious of any statement that has the word ALWAYS or NEVER. Statements with ALWAYS in them are NEVER true. :)

  43. Chris
    Chris says:

    Also, that psychology today article is decidedly one-sided in that it does not take the time to point out any happy divorced or single-parent families. That is ridiculous.

  44. Greg
    Greg says:

    Unhappiness, unfortunately, is a fact of life, but it can also propel us to move in a better direction. In fact, in my life, unhappiness has been a great motivator. I used to have a job that, after several years, became pretty bad and caused a fair amount of stress (micromanaging supervisor, etc.). I complained inwardly and outwardly about it, but it wasn’t until I got really unhappy that I actually started doing something to change my situation.

    I eventually started my own consulting company, and have been happily self-employed for over 4 years. One of the best–and unforseen–side effects of that career change is that by starting my own consulting business, I feel incredibly empowered and much more economically secure than I ever did as an employee.

    And it’s ironic that I have that my unhappiness led me to be in a much better place.

    While consulting might not be for everyone, for those who are interested in finding out more about starting their own consulting business, along with tips & tricks, you can read more at http://www.StartMyConsultingBusiness.com.

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