The happiness issue of muse magazine is neither about promising rewards unrelated to the thing possessed (longer lashes, self-esteem) nor perpetual positivity (don’t suppose something can exist without its opposite). Rather it’s about finding ways to accept those poles and recognising their role in optimal function or ‘flourishing’ – which may be the best definition of happiness yet. Suzy Green gives an excellent overview of its place in positive psychology. It’s about the myriad ways to imagine what happiness is – and isn’t – and making time to get clear on what it means in the context of our lives (there is a term ‘toxic positivity’, which speaks to ideals divorced from the lives they promise to improve). It’s about calling the bluff of oxymorons peddled by cultural norms (go on, be authentic, but don’t transgress the ‘good vibes only’ t-shirt), reclaiming the term and creating your own recipe. Importantly, amid the barrage of self-help books, it’s about recognising that happiness – as defined by dominant paradigms – is an uneven playing field, as Nadine Cameron writes. Comparison is not only futile but can be prohibitively invalidating.
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