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The truth about happiness

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The truth about happiness, Susanna Halonen


As the Happyologist, the most common question I get is, “Are you always happy?” To this, I confidently respond, “No, I’m human.” It took me years to fully understand this question and to respond to it confidently. Why? Because I, just like the rest of society, had totally misunderstood what happiness is.

I thought that being happy is all about smiling and experiencing bliss. I believed being happy meant never experiencing negative emotions. I thought I was supposed to be in a happy state of mind 24 hours a day seven days a week, and express it in an extroverted manner wherever I went. To experience this happy state of mind, I was supposed to be constantly succeeding at what I was doing and reach every single one of my goals in record time. This formula for having a never-ending happy state of mind is supposedly what we are all meant to follow.


In truth, none of these statements are true, but somehow they have become some of the most popularised happiness myths out there. Yet, they do you a big disservice: they hold your happiness back. And that’s exactly what they did for me too.

When I believed in those myths, I thought there was something wrong with me whenever I felt low in my mood. I would try to fight it or hide it, which made me feel even worse. I thought being happy was the ultimate purpose in life, and I thought I was at fault when I was unhappy. That is why I have spent so much of my life chasing happiness. That is also what got me into positive psychology.

Positive psychology is the science of happiness and human performance. It’s also what saved me and my life. Completing the Masters of Science in Applied Positive Psychology is what taught me the truth about happiness. Through it, I learned what the happiness myths were and how to overcome them. Most importantly, I learned how to action them in my own life and the life of others as I embarked on my mission to make the world a happier place.

Now I’m here to share some of those learnings with you. Here are three of the myths and truths you deserve to know so that you can have a better shot at happiness too…

MYTH ONE: Happiness is the absence of negative emotions.
TRUTH: Happiness is having the full experience of all human emotions.

Being human means feeling both the good and the bad. Each side plays a vital role in your happiness. Positive emotions, like joy, delight and pleasure, make you feel good in the moment and tell you when things are good. Negative emotions, like sadness, anger and stress, shine a light on things that are going wrong and they also show that you care. They are like a compass guiding you on what matters and what needs to change. Make the most out of the positive emotions when you feel them and learn to manage the negative ones so they don’t take over.

MYTH TWO: Success fuels happiness.
TRUTH: Happiness fuels success.

Getting that promotion, buying that new house, or reaching whatever goal you have set for yourself doesn’t make you happy in the long-term. Sure, you will experience a sense of achievement, pride and delight when you achieve those things but it’s short lived and before you know it you’re back to the same mood you were in before.

That’s why chasing success isn’t the key to happiness. Actually, it’s building your daily level of happiness that’s the key to your success. Research after research (discover multiple studies and their results in Shawn Achor’s The Happiness Advantage) has shown that happier people are less stressed, more creative, more productive and healthier. They’re even more likely to have better, more fulfilling relationships. This is why focusing on your mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing could actually bring every type of success to you.

MYTH THREE: There is one formula for happiness.
TRUTH: There is no one-size-fits-all for happiness.

You are a completely unique human being. That means what makes you happy is also completely unique to you. You might be happiest as a director in a big corporation. Or you might be happiest as a one-(wo)man entrepreneur. Or maybe you’re happiest being a supportive spouse and loving partner. There is no right or wrong, except what you know is right for you.

If in doubt, ask yourself: What makes me happy in the moment (e.g. reading a book, laughing, wearing a new dress) – and – what gives you a sense of meaning and purpose in your life (e.g. helping others, your work, a night out with your best friend, growing and being challenged)? Work on having a balance of these two types of happiness in your life and you’re good to go.

Suzanna is an author, keynote speaker and life coach, as the Happyologist she is on a mission to make the world a happier place. Suzanna is Life + Me’s Happyologist expert. If you have a question for Suzanna for our Q+As, or if you have a suggested topic you would like her to cover, email


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