Tag Archives: emotions

  • 0

“Who knew I was happy?”​

Tags : 

 (or Evidence Driven Therapy- it’s hard to argue with facts.)

One of our customers didn’t know he was happy. We’ll call him Bob. We’ll also make some of the facts a bit more generic, after all we want to maintain Bob’s privacy.

Bob suffers from bi-polar disorder and has been in therapy to help him learn to deal with it. Bob’s swings from manic to depressive have had a huge impact on his life and marriage, and like many who suffer from bi-polar disorder his own impression of his well-being tends to depend on where he currently falls between manic and depressive phases. Bob also happens to be one of WeFeel’s testers and has been using it since our early releases last year.

With Bob’s and his wife’s input we’ve been able to add features to WeFeel to help him both in his personal life and with his marriage. At the end of last year we added what we call dual customizable sliders to track things like where you fall between manic and depressive phases. Instead of just a Bipolar slider it’s completely customizable so you can specify what each end of the slider means…you want to track where you are on the scale of Homer Simpson to Elon Musk, you can do that.

My favorite “Bob” story so far is when he came in during a depressive phase, just a month or two after beginning to use WeFeel. As he started to speak with his psychologist, he was surprisingly upbeat. The first thing they did was pull out WeFeel’s dashboard for a quick look at his latest trends.

“Hey Bob, there’s a lot of yellow here.” (Yellow is the color WeFeel uses for Joy)

“I know, right! Who knew I was happy?”

Bob had been going through life assuming that, in general, he was a miserable person. It’s really easy to get stuck in that mindset, especially when you are fighting something like Bipolar Disorder. But then evidence was presented to him in a way that he couldn’t deny. After all, Bob created all of the emotion entries showing he was happy. When confronted with the facts, he was able to begin to shift his world view. Turns out in general, Bob’s a pretty happy fellow.

When when we talk about Evidence Based Therapy, or Evidence Based Mental Health care we mean practices and techniques that have been proven to work via recognized scientific research. But I think we can (and should!) take things one step further. In the business world we have business intelligence tools that can aid in evidence based decision making. WeFeel is essentially an expansion of those concepts adapted to individual mental health care. Previously it has been really difficult to gather and visualize empirical evidence about what has happened with a patient in between sessions. Instead, mental health care professionals have had to rely on not only their patient’s ability to recall past events, but also their ability to convince them to share.

Just like with Bob, you only need the first 3-5 minutes of a session for WeFeel to show facts and trends from events gathered as they transpired. We know that even with something as convenient as a phone, it’s still hard to remember to journal and track things. To help build the habit of capturing data, WeFeel helps patients to remember to track their emotions, moods, and pretty much anything you can think of by providing up to 10 random reminders throughout the day, and to schedule up to 3. That’s a lot of data points.

The good news is we sum it all up for you so that you just need to spend a few moments to check out the Discussion Points and Dashboard pages to identify important issues. Finally, you use those facts in helping to provide talking points, diagnosis, and treatment during your session. WeFeel doesn’t do the diagnosing, it simply provides an easy way to gather evidence. You then use it to help drive therapy forwards- Evidence Driven Therapy. It’s just an extra tool to put in your tool belt, but if you ask Bob, it’s one that makes you happy…or rather, one that shows you the happiness you’ve always had inside.


  • 0

WeFeel: Therapist’s Toolbox vs. Therapy Substitute

Tags : 

It’s hard to believe that it was almost two years ago that we came up with the idea for WeFeel. Despite there being hundreds of “mental health” apps already on the market we saw a huge hole that no one seemed to be interested in or willing to fill. Organizations have been racing to create apps that help treat specific issues, and there’s even some really cool tech out there that is trying to automatically diagnose individuals using machine learning and artificial intelligence to analyze an person’s environment, and physical response.

I think those are all great things. In fact, as someone on the autism spectrum, the idea of getting help without having to actually go get help is very appealing. But as we looked at things back at the beginning of 2015, we found the same results that have been reported in articles published more recently: many, if not most mental health care apps aren’t backed by any studies or clinical evidence, and worse…many are flat out damaging to an individual’s mental health. The problem, as we saw it, was that most of the apps and services being created were designed to be a substitute for therapy,

So what did we do? We went out and talked to psychologists, psychiatrists, marriage counselors, certified therapists and anyone else willing to provide input to find out what physical tools they already used, what proven techniques existed that merely needed to be converted to a mobile format, and then we got to work. Our philosophy became how do we help therapists by augmenting what they already do, instead of how can we replace them with an app.

We were lucky enough to have found Dr. Scott Seaman, a forward thinking psychologist based out of Orem, UT who was willing to test WeFeel with his patients (with their consent of course!). We spent six months or so refining WeFeel in a clinical setting, adding tools to help a therapist treat things like depression, anxiety, and addiction, and to help with couples therapy, and autism spectrum disorder.

The more we worked together, the more flexible WeFeel became. Our initial idea of having WeFeel prompt you once or twice a day to create an entry grew into adding up to 10 random prompts and three scheduled ones. Early concepts like the ability for a couple to share their emotion entries turned into the ability for a patient to securely share their data with a care provider, who then could remotely monitor the status of their patient. A quick and simple way to enter core emotions became a fully customizable interface that could track anything from a single item to 19 separate items- the 19th was because a customer emailed us and asked for just one more custom slider to help her track an item that would help her meet her goals.

Once we had data, we found that we could do really cool stuff with it. There were the obvious things like Dashboards to help visualize and narrow down patterns and triggers, and we used a bit of if computing power to be able to find topics to discuss via word clouds and sorting through entries to find those with the deepest feelings.

But, as we got results from real world use, we found that while it was nice to have all that data, data without action is only part of the solution. We knew that a common treatment step is to give the patient a plan or “coping strategy” like counting to ten whenever you are angry, or calling a friend when you are feeling depressed. We were missing that ability to help treat symptoms, and so we took a look at how we could help a therapist work with their patient to provide customized action prompts. We wanted to create a generic toolbox for the therapist to use to treat anything. It was just a matter of converting this existing and proven technique into something a mobile device could perform.

WeFeel already knew when a person was angry, since they already created an emotion entry for it, so it was just a matter of adding the ability to provide the therapist’s directions as a reminder. The solution was to just take that existing practice and simply add Coping Strategies to our toolbox. Now, the therapist can work with their patient to devise an action or behavior and enter it into the toolbox. Then when the patient logs that they are feeling a certain way, WeFeel will automatically prompt them to follow the strategy that matched. It can even have up to 16 different strategies to match different situations.

The next thing we knew we had patients using WeFeel to help them overcome addiction by prompting them to take action at the early states of feeling a craving. In this case, we made a super-customizable tool, and Scott came up with an awesome way to use it.

It turns out, as we created WeFeel, we were giving hope to people as they worked with their therapist to come up with their own unique way to use it. We helped enhance the bond between care provider and patient, instead of isolating them from their therapist. By working in clinical setting, getting real world feedback, and most importantly listening to our customers WeFeel is now making a difference, and I think that’s pretty cool.

 


  • 0

The Other Side of “We”

Tags : 

We…

Imagine a large field. Populate it with images of people. Close your eyes and think for a minute about “We.”

Here’s a happy little field with a stream running through it to help you out:

When you envision “We” who joins you in your field? If I say to you “religion”, does the population change? What if I say “politics”? How about “nation”?

We are…

In your mind’s eye, what are the people wearing? What color is their hair, eyes, and skin? What are they thinking? What do they believe? What are their traditions? What makes them part of your “We”?

Here’s a peaceful waterfall to admire while you contemplate:

We are bound together by…

Now, in your mind you should have a picture of your “We”. You know what makes your group special. You know what ties you together. You know what makes you a “tribe”. If you wanted you could actually see the bonds between each individual, see each link that connects people to each other, and to you.

Perhaps one of the links says “family”. Maybe it says “community”. If you try you can break the links down even further into individual concepts. The link called “religion” breaks down to its constituents: beliefs about god, purpose, sacred rites, holy books and all those strands that make up the religious ties between you and your “We”. The link called “politics” does the same. As you imagine this you can see all the connections vividly, the most important connections thick like steel cables, unbreakable. When you imagine this you feel whole. A part of something bigger than yourself. Part of a tribe. Part of a family.

You now have your mind map of “we.”

Pause for another moment to internalize this picture you’ve created.

Here’s a cool visualization of the links that make up the Internet to get lost in:

“I” from “We”

Now that you are firmly rooted in your “We”, I have to wonder, what part of the whole makes the individual? Was this image created over time based on your upbringing, your income, or perhaps your genetics? Why is this your tribe and how tightly do you feel bound to them?

What would you do for the people within this cloud of connections you’ve created? Would you give your hard earned money to support them? Would you give them your time? Would you give them your life? What would you do to continue to belong to this family?

I find the dichotomy in many cultures that profess the importance of individuality while simultaneously stressing the importance of family, tradition, and loyalty to be confusing. Does your “I” depend on strands of approval those connections? Does your “I” venture out into the darkness of that beyond your tribe, or does it stay close, comforted in the knowledge that “We” have all the answers “I” need?

When you think about “I”, how much of you is held together by “We”?

Bonds, or Bondage?

I’ve seen it said that no man is an island, but I am. In fact, there’s an entire subset of people without the innate ability to create, visualize, or depend on those bonds that make “We”. Like most people, I was taught from an early age the importance of “We”. We are Family. We are Christian. We are Muslim. We are Jewish. We are Republicans. We are Democrats. We are rich. We are poor. So many different versions of “We”.

But I can’t see it. My mind map is empty when I do this exercise. I would guess that for many that thought is depressing, overwhelming, and possibly unimaginable. Maybe you feel sorry for me. Maybe your “We” does too.

I’ve chosen to see it as a blessing, because I am free. Once I stopped believing that to exist I had to belong, which I never could figure out how to do, I was able to stop trying to force those strands that make up the connections of “We” into existence . I was free to be wrong. Free to examine other forms of “we.” Free to see that:

With the bonds of “We” comes the bondage of “We”.

How many of your deep down core beliefs you hold as “truth” are really bonds that help you feel part of “We”? Is that thought too difficult to face? How many of life’s potential experiences have you missed because some of the bonds of “We” determine your actions? Do you find safety in the limitations or regret at lost opportunity?

How many good people will you never know because they are not part of “We”?

How many people in this world are “they”? When you imagine “them”, do you feel disdain and distrust? Are “they” evil? Are “they” scary? Are “they” they cause of your problems?

Most of all, what do you fear if you started cutting some of those strands? Will you be bullied, pitied or ostracized? If you identify those fears could you face them?

What will fear cause you to do in order to maintain your status as “We”?

Will you compromise your ethics to avoid becoming “one of them”? Will you support an undeserving leader? Will you become the bully? Will you refuse to speak up when you see wrong doing? Will you refuse to give “them” a chance to be heard, just because “they” aren’t contained within your mental image?

And that is the core of it all. From the beginning of this post I’ve had you creating mental images. Visualizations of what makes your reality. But if you stop to think about it that is all it is: a mental image. A picture in your head of how the world should be, and who should be in it. It is an ephemeral painting that you fight to make eternal and unchanging. And often with that fight comes intolerance, divisiveness, and hatred.

I’m not damaged. I’ve been given a gift. I can see both the power for good and the corruption that comes from “We”. I am the equivalent of a Mars rover, a robot observing and collecting data, weighing things based on logic and reason.

I’ve also been given a curse. I look in on all of the various versions of “We” from the outside, and I don’t know how to relate to you. I don’t know how to say “please just open your eyes to the bigger world” without offending. In fact, the minute I started asking people to consider their fears, some who read this became offended. Who am I to ask them to question their “We”?

So on my island, I sit alone; having loved ones around me. Part of me wishes that I could have that desire and ability to be part of a group. Despite the limitations that may come from a need to belong, I do see the advantages. Part of me wants to scream at the top of my lungs “HEY EVERYONE, YOU ARE HEADED ON A PATH THAT LEADS TO GREATER PAIN BECAUSE OF YOUR FEAR OF LOSING YOUR “WE”!”

I don’t have the right answer. So I leave it up to you. You have to decide. You have to have the courage to choose to expand your version of “We” to include everyone, despite the fact that it will break many of the ties that make your reality. For me, that process was painful, but nowhere near what I imagine it would be for someone who depends on those connections to be whole. I would guess the thought is terrifying. But I feel it is important to at least ask you to consider it. You can work to simplify the kinds of bonds that connect you to others, you don’t have to erase the whole picture.

As you tear away the pieces, you will find that you only need a single strand: “human”. When you do, there can be no more “they” or “them”.

“We will work with them” becomes “we will work together”. But I fear that it is still easier to choose to remain “We” and “they”.

Because after all is said and done there is comfort in:

“We are righteous”, “We have truth”, and “We know what is best”.


  • 0

Limp Balloons (or Erroneous, Targeted Deflation)

Tags : 

Someone reading the title is expecting me to open with a deflategate joke, so let me do a little panderin’ for just one picture:

Good news is I can make a real slick segue with that picture into today’s topic: Does stress ever make you feel like a football before Tom Brady gets his hands on it?*

Yes, today we are talking about good old fashioned stress, that thing that causes heart attacks, strokes, anxiety, sleep deprivation and all kinds of other badness. And, like most of you, I don’t particularly want or need any more badness in my life, so it sounds like we all should strive for stress-free living. In fact, if I google “stress-free living” I find that there are millions of entries, some by really smart people, with advice, books, pills, and pictures of happy people in open fields spinning around with their arms held wide…the universal symbol of people without stress (or inner ear dysfunction.)

I do love me an open-field, and and while spinning around isn’t my thing, apparently I’ve stumbled upon a goal we should have. Let’s all get rid of stress!

Trying to live stress-free is stressful

Is it just me or is the idea of all the work involved with living stress-free stressful?There are soooo many steps involved. Sure decluttering my life would be good, exercise each day sounds smart, and creating lists for the tasks I need to complete would prevent worrying over forgetting things. But, if I let myself become obsessed with all of the stuff I should do to avoid stress, I’ve added a gigantic pile of things to remember to do each day. Yay, more stress.

Seems we’ve found a situation like the one I talked about in Make Happy Little Cognitive Dissonance: Believing that we should be trying to be stress-free causes stress, just like believing we should be trying to be happy all the time causes us to be less happy. We’ve got our priorities out of whack again, and I think it is because we misunderstand stress.

Stress, on its own, isn’t the evil we think it is

Did you know that the idea of emotional and mental “stress” has been around for less than 100 years? Not only that, “Stress is not a useful term for scientists because it is such a highly subjective phenomenon that it defies definition.” I find it odd, that we try to eliminate something that is so ambiguously defined that even scientists feel the term is useless. Fundamentally, stress is just pressure exerted by “stressors” on our lives. As people often tend to do, they latched on to the negative connotations of stress, ignoring the fact that it also a necessary part of life.

No Stress, Eustress, Distress:

More than 100 years ago John Dodson and Robert Yerkes came up with a law showing that up to a certain point the more stress you have the more productive you are. Now back in their days, they called it “arousal” (remember the use of the word “stress” is less than 100 years old…pay attention class!), but nowadays a curve that says “the more aroused we are” means something entirely different, so we use the current term for the mental and emotional pressure put on us- “stress”.

Because of the negative connotations around the word “stress” we had to come up with a new word for “positive stress”- Eustress, or “good stress.” And to make the distinction between good and bad stress, we call bad stress “distress.” The, artfully handcrafted by me, chart you see above gives you an idea of how this law works. Without stress of any kind in our lives we get nothing done. Though sometimes sitting around and playing videos games all day sounds good, most of us want to accomplish something with our lives. Without any factors pushing us to do so, we simply won’t get anything done.

There is a certain amount of stress (which depends completely on the task) where we are “in the zone” and feel super-productive. That’s the area of eustress, the good stress that helps us find creativity, focus our energy, and meet deadlines. Eventually, if the stress levels keep building, we become less and less productive, eventually falling into distress (where banging your head on the keyboard seems a reasonable alternative to working.)

A balloon analogy

While it may be outside pressure (stressors) that cause stress, for me, stress feels more like I’m about to burst from the inside. I’ve never felt so much stress I want to implode, I’m all about explosions.

And that leads us back to limp balloons, and targeted deflation. (Not much of a segue there was it?) Here’s why:

Life without stress is as pointless as a limp balloon.

A balloon without any air in it is living a stress free life…nothing pushing on it’s thin walls forcing it to expand. That balloon is living in the state that we have errantly set as a goal. Are we jealous of the balloon?

No, of course not! Aside from the fact that it is a balloon and jealousy of inanimate objects would be indicative of larger personal issues, if you have a balloon and you never fill it up, what is the point of having it? It isn’t serving any purpose. I can’t imagine a child’s eyes lighting up when you hand them an empty balloon, and tell them not to blow it up. You certainly aren’t going to make many balloon animals out of it. It’s just a limp ol’ piece of rubber. You’ve got to add a little pressure, but not too much.

Life with distress is as scary as an overfilled balloon in a cactus garden.

Similarly, no one wants to be handed a balloon that has so much gas in it the slightest touch will blow it up. Sure it may have accomplished the task of being a balloon, but again, you aren’t going to make any balloon animals out of it. You are going to have to handle it delicately if you want to be able to enjoy it for any amount of time. You want to see stress-levels rise- go bat an overfilled balloon around with a friend in the desert section of your local botanical garden.

Embrace eustress, avoid distress, and stop trying to live without any stress.

Stress in all its forms is something for which we should take notice. But just like with our emotions, we shouldn’t fear it. We shouldn’t avoid it. We definitely shouldn’t have stress about eliminating stress. Like most of the stuff I write about, it’s really easy to say, but not so easy to do. For me, the first step is to pause throughout the day and just try to figure out if the stress I’m feeling is eustress, or if I’ve gone over the edge into distress. Then, instead of trying to eliminate stress that is actually beneficial to me, I can simply acknowledge it and be on my merry way. When it’s too much, I don’t have to eliminate it completely, I’ve got the much smaller task of just dialing it back to more optimal levels.

So maybe Mr. Brady was on to something there: The balls clearly were in a state of distress. Had he emptied them of all the stress there’s not much to be done with a limp pigskin. Free the football from distress he cried! And then empathic ol’ Tom Brady deflated the balloons (err, footballs that is) to bring them to their optimal state of eustress. Or maybe he was just looking for an advantage in life.

The good news is, you can do the same, without the four game suspension. Instead of fearing stress, embrace it and let it help you succeed. When you do you can create things you never imagined possible.

*Does it count as a slick segue if you tell people you are about to drop a slick segue? Can we please start spelling segue segway? If we started spelling segue segway, would we all have to wear sweaters and ride around on weird two wheeled transportation devices?


  • 0

I Got to be on the Radio

Tags : 

and it wasn’t as scary as I thought it might be.

There are things in life that are unknown, and because they are unknown they are scary. About a month ago I was contacted by someone I followed on twitter and was asked to be on her radio show. That was something that I’d never done before.

For a moment, when I read that my heart jumped up in my throat and I thought “Gack!” There was a little bit of fear. (and yes, I acknowledged it and recorded it in WeFeel).

However, I really believe in WeFeel and what we can offer to therapists and the general public so I wrote back and said, “Yes” because this would be a good way to get the message out there. At that point it was easy — the date was set a month away so I didn’t even really have to think about it. So I didn’t, because when I did there was that little bit of fear again. And then the day was upon me and it wasn’t so bad.

The host of Moments of Clarity, Tiffany Werhner, put me at ease and we had a great conversation about where WeFeel came from and how it can help.

If you’d like to listen to the interview, here’s the podcast:

 

or download it


  • 0

All you need is love…

Tags : 

Love is a very powerful force. It moves us to do things that we might not otherwise, for good or for bad. If you believe some philosophers it is what makes life worth living. It also gives hold for many of our emotions because it drives how we are connected to the world. Our fears, angers, joys, disgusts, and sorrows can be directly tied to the people and things we love most.

There are many kinds of love — from friendship to romance. It also is found in: affection, adoration, fondness, caring, tenderness, attraction, compassion, lust, desire, passion, and infatuation.

We love all our followers and would love it if you share our posts with your friends. Invite them to like our Facebook page WeFeelUs or follow us on Twitter @WeFeelUs to get more inspirational updates about our emotions and emotional awareness.


  • 0

What are you afraid of? Meet Fear.

Tags : 

Fear is an incredibly useful tool, until it isn’t. Fear can keep you from taking foolish risks that would lead to severe death and injury. It protects you from danger. Fear floods your system with adrenaline to fight or flee. But sometimes fear can prevent you from doing what is necessary, or presents itself when you are not in danger. When that happens, the adrenaline flooding your system can interfere with what you want and need to do. So it’s a useful feeling, right up until it isn’t.

Fear sneaks into our lives under the guise of: nervousness, anxiety, uneasiness, apprehension, worry, distress, dread, alarm, shock, terror, and panic.

What am I afraid of? Comment your current fears and I’ll share mine with you.


  • 1

Awesome Buts (Or this complement will self-destruct in 5 seconds.)

Tags : 

Dude, that’s so cool that you climbed up there- let me get a picture. You are so awesome!

But, holy crap how did you manage to get your shirt so dirty???

See what I did there? Bet you’ve done it, or had it done to you. I just went and let my but get in the way of making someone feel good.

If you think about that from the physiological standpoint, what I did was even more cruel than it sounds.

A simplified explanation is that by giving some words of encouragement and approval his brain kicked up the levels of Dopamine, Oxytocin and Serotonin, making him feel good about himself, loved and successful. His reward system kicked in telling him everything is great. Shortly after, I knocked him down a few pegs causing those neurochemical levels to drop, inducing feelings of rejection and sadness, and since they were at a heightened state due to my previous statement, the difference felt is more drastic than if I’d not given the compliment at all. Not cool!

Flip your buts!

This isn’t my original idea, I first learned in from a leadership training session taught byKirk Weisler.  His suggestion is that if you’ve got a criticism to say, and you’ve got something positive as well, always give the negative first.

“Devin, your shirt’s really messy and you should take better care of it, but that’s a really awesome spot you climbed up to so let’s get a picture to remember it.”

Simple to do, and why wouldn’t you want to leave a person feeling good about themselves?  This isn’t just for with your kids or loved ones either.  At work we can change:

“Bob, you’ve done a great job with sales this quarter. You’ve blown away your overall target, but we need you to get more enterprise customers.”

to:

“Bob, focusing on getting more enterprise customers next quarter needs to be your priority, but I wanted to congratulate you on the awesome job you beating your overall sales target last quarter.”

Which is going to leave Bob feeling more motivated to go out and help the company with its goals?  The first scenario where we basically told him you did great but it’s not good enough, or the second where we gave him direction on where to focus his energy and then told him how how great he’s doing?

Follow This One Weird Trick to Make Your Buts Awesome

(Sorry, I just had to throw the click bait title in there, I couldn’t stop myself.)

I think Kirk’s advice is great, and I’ve tried to use it when I can.  Recently I’ve had more time to spend with my kids while Kim is out building support for our WeFeel Kickstarter campaign, and I’ve caught myself both remembering and forgetting to flip my buts.  And me being me, I got to thinking about how I could do even better.

Here’s what I’ve come up with. Whenever I feel the need to add a but to a statement, I want to try to figure out how to turn that into a learning opportunity.  Instead of “you did great, but here’s where you failed” or even the better form “here’s what you could of done better, but I’m proud of you” I think we have an opportunity for a real conversation.

Something along the lines of

“Hey let’s talk about <topic>. Here are some things you may not have considered that I think could help out…  What are some of the things you learned? If you were to do it again what would you change?   Cool, I think you’ve done an awesome job so far and it’s great that you are thinking about how you can do even better. I can’t wait to see how you do next time!”

See what I did there? I got rid of the buts. And despite Sir-Mix-A-Lot’s preferences, sometimes no buts are the most awesome buts.


  • 0

Ewww… Disgust

Tags : 

Ewwwww…. Disgust. I have to admit that is not a pleasant emotion. But it’s not supposed to be. Disgust keeps us from doing things that are detrimental to ourselves – like eating rotten meat or accepting disease spreading behavior. Beware disgust’s stronger alias, contempt, it can be a relationship killer.

Disgust also includes boredom, distaste, revulsion, repugnance, aversion, contempt, nausea, and abhorrence.

Tracking how you are feeling, even when disgusted, helps improve emotional awareness. WeFeel is a great way to track emotion, journal and share.

Get the app today


  • 1

Make Happy Little Cognitive Dissonance

Tags : 

How are you? Are you happy?

Like, right now, at this moment are you blissful? Do you currently feel that rush of neurochemicals permeating your brain causing a sense of Joy? What I’m saying here is, do you presently possess a combination of elevated levels of Endocannabinoids, Dopamine, Serotonin, Oxytocin and Endorphins that is unique to your brain chemistry resulting in a sense of pleasure and enjoyment?

Cause you are supposed to be happy right now. In fact you are supposed to be happy all the damn time. I know this because I was taught from a young age that our purpose in life is to be happy.  The religion of my youth says “Men are, that they might have joy.” My country was founded on the principle that I have a basic right to pursue happiness.  Various forms of media have pummeled me with information on how to be happy, if only I just…….

{insert ‘x’ here} to be happy.

x = {Serve Others, Find Love, Give Love, Live with Purpose, Find God, Loose God, Take Drugs, Stop Taking Drugs, Be a Vegan, Eat like a Caveman, Exercise, Eat Chocolate, Eat More Chocolate, seriously all you need to do is have some yummy chocolate }

Something must be wrong with me!

Because I’m not happy all the damn time. I know this because for the majority of the past year I’ve been using WeFeel to track my emotions.  Turns out, generally, I’m content at most; and that revelation was just depressing. Depressing to the point that sometimes I just stop using WeFeel to track how I feel because I don’t want the reminder that I’m failing at my purpose in life.  I created the service to help myself and others understand emotion and what I found so far was that I must be doing life wrong.

(mixed memes are awesome)

What if we were wrong?

This idea that we are supposed to be happy didn’t originate with some genetic memory I’ve had since birth.  It was taught.  In much of western culture we are actually indoctrinated from a young age that our default state of existence should be one that is chemically induced by receptors in our brain. And so we obsess about finding “true” happiness (whatever that means…is there a fake happiness?), and stress about the times when we aren’t.  We actually induce a state of anxiety (also caused by brain chemistry) worrying about why we aren’t in a different chemical state.  How weird is that?

20 something years of dissonance

In the early 90s I had the chance to live in Taiwan for a couple years.  Talk about culture shock. I was there to spread the word that western religion brings happiness. And I kept running into all these happy Buddhists. A key tenet of many of the forms of Buddhism is that life is suffering, life is pain.  The exact opposite of what I was taught, that life is about being happy.  Yet there they were, all these miserably happy people. What gives?

Sokath, his eyes open!

Last week I wrote about Bo Burnham’s new special “Make Happy” It wasn’t a happy post.  You are probably thinking “Yeah, but this one is even worse.  Now you are telling us that we aren’t even supposed to be happy.”  But I’m really not trying to bring you down here.  I just want you to stop for a moment, and think about what you think about being happy.

Think about the fact that there are so many things that can make us happy, but there are also so many things that make us feel our other emotions. Why did someone, at some point, come up with the idea that out of all the emotions we can feel, we should pick “happy” as our default state? Could they possibly have been influenced by the fact that when we are happy, dopamine, the “reward molecule”, is released? It’s a cycle that makes us want to be happy.  Being happy feels good!

And here is the epiphany I’ve found in pondering the essence of “Make Happy”:

We are happy when our brain is flooded with certain chemicals. Our base state of existence therefore cannot be happy; because if it were, you wouldn’t have to add neurochemicals to get there!

I’ve been wrong my whole life about happiness.  I’ve been trying to pursue being happy all the time when in reality that doesn’t even make sense.  From a purely chemical standpoint if you had the same levels of neurochemicals that induce a state of euphoria all the time you’d become immune to the feeling and would then need more of those chemicals to feel joy.  Just ask an opioid addict how well that works.

Stop obsessing about happiness, and you just might end up happier.

So we’ve established that a constant state of happiness is illogical.  By letting go of that pursuit we can stop the stress and anxiety of when we don’t live up to our expectations.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t do things that make us happy. I’m saying that it’s ok to just be who we are when we are not happy.

In doing so, we can give ourselves the chance to embrace the whole experience of life. It turns out that by creating a service to understand emotion, I’ve accidentally created a way to see through some of my own incorrect beliefs about what I’m supposed to be doing here on earth.  I’ve become more able to relish the fact that sometimes I’m afraid, or sad, or just down-right angry.  I don’t have to have a need to try to find a way to turn those emotions into some level of joy.

And that makes me happy.


Get the App

tablet-2sm

When you download the WeFeel App you start a journey. Where that journey takes you is up to you, but you can't get started without the app:

Get WeFeel for Windows

Get WeFeel for Android

Get WeFeel for Apple