Please Stop Telling Me To ‘Choose Happiness’

Unsplash, Ariana Prestes
Unsplash, Ariana Prestes

I hate when people say, “just choose happiness.” Hate is a very strong word, and I rarely use it, but this is something I feel very strongly about. As a person who lives with anxiety and depression I believe that saying, “just choose happiness” is awful.

Before I go further, I just want to say that no, I’m not too sensitive and no, this isn’t an over-reaction and here is why: Anxiety and depression are very different, but can be treated through therapy and medication. They are caused by deficiency in serotonin or monoamines. It’s literally science. You can’t just choose to have more serotonin.

When you tell someone to choose happiness, it’s basically like telling someone who has the flu to feel better.

“You don’t need antibiotics, you’re just asking for them because you want the attention.” No. I don’t want attention. I just want to feel normal. It’s demeaning. By telling me to choose happiness, you’re belittling my emotions and saying that I want to feel this horrible.

If anyone had the choice, they wouldn’t choose to be depressed and anxious all the time. They would obviously choose to be happy, because it makes life so much easier. No one wants to wake up every morning and feel like they have a weight on their chest. No one wants to feel panic and sadness every single day. No one willingly wants to make their life more difficult.

Frankly, it’s exhausting. No one is choosing to feel sad, so stop making them feel like it’s their fault by not “choosing” to be happy. There are many different types of therapy, all of which take time and generally cost money. CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) is one of the most common therapies, but it can take about 12 weeks to complete. In order for this therapy to be successful, you have to work on it daily.

There is no cutting corners when it comes to mental health. It’s not an easy fix. But it is very very very important. Telling someone to choose happiness is like telling a person with a broken leg to just start walking, because the pain is all in their head.

No. A person with a broken leg can’t just choose to recover over night, just like a person with anxiety and depression can’t just choose to be happy. Mental illness is something we can’t change easily.

But you can choose to get help. You can choose to fight for yourself. You can choose to work on it every single day. But you can’t just choose happiness. A positive attitude isn’t going to make it go away. Ignoring the problem and masking it with a fake smile isn’t going to make you happy.

The next time you’re about to tell someone to choose to be happy, I want you to think, would I say this to someone who was physically ill? If the answer is no, then don’t say it to someone with a mental illness. You are not helping them by making them feel bad for being sad. Instead, ask them how you can help. Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do, but just being there could make a difference.

So let’s change the way we think and let’s change the way we treat each other. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

More From Thought Catalog