It's OK To Be Happy — Even When Other People Aren't

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woman in yellow glasses makes a peace sign in a rainforest

Many people find it difficult to justify being happy when there's so much suffering in the world. 

And seeing the hardships of others on the news, like the victims of tornadoes and other natural disasters, leads to some experiencing "happiness guilt" — thinking it isn't OK to feel happy when others can't. 

The symptoms of happiness guilt are showing up frequently with my clients lately due to so many resulting humanitarian crises happening around the world, and even here in the United States.

Horrifying current events often spawn feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, overwhelm and despair and leave empathetic people with a bleak outlook on the future. 

RELATED: The 5 Worst Traits Of Bitter, Unhappy People (And How To Avoid Becoming One Of Them)

Why it's OK to be happy, even when the world is in crisis

Your life satisfaction depends on it.

Finding happiness in spite of your circumstances is proven to extend your life, reduce stress, boost your immune system, motivate healthy lifestyle choices, and increase your success in almost everything, including relationships, work, creativity, goals, etc. 

Happy people tend to have a greater capacity to help others in need.

While it's healthy to feel empathy for others who are suffering, if you find yourself stuck in feelings of depression or hopelessness as a result, you are less able to offer help to those in need. 

In that way, your sadness may actually prevent you from doing all the good you can to help others.

So, like the theme song from the popular 70s T.V. show, The Partridge Family, "C'mon, get happy!" You'll be glad you did. 

Here are 3 ways to find happiness even when others can't.

1. Let go of happiness guilt.

If you believe that being happy makes you a bad person in some way or represents lacking empathy, you may experience happiness guilt.

But the truth is, you cannot make others happy by being unhappy. And, your ability to find happiness is not related to others losing theirs.

Happiness is a feeling accessible to all and you're not taking something from someone to access yours. 

In fact, you're more likely to help someone else find theirs as emotions are contagious like a virus. Do you prefer to spread happiness or sadness?

Both are conditions and both end unless you allow yourself to remain infected. Did you feel a spark of joy just by thinking of being infected with happiness?

"Happiness guilt" is a thief of joy and will not change any circumstance; it will only keep you from being the opposite force from the darkness that depresses and oppresses the world - light.

Things I hear that lead me to "diagnose" happiness guilt are statements like, "I can't be happy; someone close to me is sick. I can't be happy; someone else is hurting. I can't be happy there is a war, a pandemic, etc."

What would be different if each one of us allowed our light to shine? Imagine what a bright light that could be. Perhaps you must begin by giving yourself permission to be happy.

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2. Give yourself permission to be happy.

You must believe that it's OK and important to be happy even when others are not. Being unhappy doesn't help lift others; it simply makes you less capable of influencing change. 

Recognize that your happiness will not change the circumstances of others but will raise your energetic vibration. And when you vibrate higher energetically, you are more capable of doing something to help.

The shift from helplessness to helpfulness and from fear to love happens naturally. And as we help others through a lens of love, we increase our own happiness. It's a win-win!

Mother Teresa has been quoted as saying, "Not all of us can do great things. But we can all do small things with great love." 

What would be different if you believed that being happy amid suffering is to do your part to help alleviate it? And, what if being happy only requires allowing joy in your heart and wearing it as a smile on your face? 

Perhaps you can access joy by focusing on the resilience of the affected persons. Happiness may be hiding in plain sight; it's there, but you must choose to find it.

3. Choose to find happiness.

Negative emotions like guilt and anger hide happiness. And like all games of 'hide and seek,' it requires effort to find happiness, not just desire.

One thing is for sure — you can't find happiness while focusing on the suffering in the world. You must focus your gaze on the good. Both exist.

You can be both concerned about a situation and be happy in life. It doesn't mean you are "tone-deaf." Wear your blessings well.

Happiness can't hide from gratitude. So, even if finding gratitude for your personal situation over someone else's is all you can do in any given moment, do it.

Like in all human tragedies, there is something beautiful to be seen in people's connection and expressions of love, compassion, and kindness, isn't there? Choose to see it, do it, be it. The choice is always yours to claim.

I believe all healing starts with kindness — on the world level and at the individual level.

So, I choose to defy the gravity of what pains me by adopting thoughts of self-compassion, establishing realistic expectations of myself, and aligning with my true nature, motivated to show up in the most loving way possible for myself and others. 

You can make the world a better place by developing your own happiness so you can be a light in the world and counterbalance the darkness.

There's no payoff to anyone by denying yourself happiness or suppressing it with feelings of guilt. However, everyone benefits when you find happiness and express it.

Life is short; live it well.

RELATED: 7 Simple Rules For Authentic Happiness (Not The Fake Kind We All Pretend We Have)

Ann Papayoti, PCC, is an author, speaker, educator, and coach helping people untangle from their past and heal their hearts at SkyView Coaching. She is co-author of the self-help book, The Gift of Shift