It's okay not to be okay

In this podcast (episode #594) and blog, I talk about the 100% happiness fallacy, and why learning how to embrace your pain and rewrite your story is an important part of being truly happy. This is a replay of a Neurolive webinar I did on my app. For the full webinar AD-free, please see or look for Neurocycle on the App Store or Google Play.

Does it feel to you like you have to be happy all the time? Often, it feels like happiness and being positive is touted as the wonder drug to solve our problems. It is easy to feel like there is something wrong with you if you are not as happy as other people seem to be! Yes, being happy and optimistic can have a positive impact on our minds, brain and body, but thinking happy thoughts doesn't just eliminate whatever we are going through.  

To truly heal and find some measure of intrinsic happiness, we must move beyond positive affirmations and thinking, and face what is holding us back through embracing, processing and reconceptualizing our past pain. If we don’t do this, we won’t truly benefit from positive psychology and happiness techniques. Using the latter before we have processed and managed what has happened to us often results in a toxic positivity cycle, where we feel bad for simply being human and try to ignore our more uncomfortable emotions, which only makes us feel worse! 

In fact, research indicates that pursuing happiness in a toxically positive way can impact our ability to fully embrace the human experience, with all its ups and downs and uncertainties. Our lives are infused with fragility, setbacks and unpredictability as much as they are filled with passion, excitement and joy. Using happiness or positive thinking to mask the harsh realities of life will backfire because there is no avoiding what it means to be human. 

It is okay to not feel okay. It is okay to not be happy all the time. An adverse emotional response to an adverse life situation is normal. Understandably, we don't want to get stuck in a dark place, but happiness is not a bandage we can slap on all of life’s wounds and just “keep on keeping on”. It is an important part of life, yes, but it also means different things to different people, and will not take away that pain that we experience as we go through life. 

If you feel pressured to be happy all the time, take the time to pause and examine your thoughts. Ask yourself: 

  • Is the happiness fallacy taking up mental real estate in your mind?
  • Do you feel guilty when you feel unhappy?
  • Do you think that there is something wrong with you when you feel sad, upset or angry?
  • Do you feel shame, guilt, and embarrassment if you don't feel happy all the time?
  • Do you often tell yourself and others that you just need to “think a positive/happy thought” if you are feeling sad, angry, or any emotion that is considered uncomfortable or negative?
  • Do you find yourself ignoring or repressing your suffering or pain? 

If you said yes to any of these or all the above, work on reframing how you see happiness and its role in your life. Don't let your guilt consume you; rather, be curious, almost as if you were listening to a friend tell you about their thoughts. And, when you find yourself falling into a pattern of using toxic positivity to suppress your more uncomfortable emotions, pause and say out loud: “Not only is it okay for me to not feel okay, it is part of what it means to be human, and trying to be happy all the time can actually hurt me and make my pain worse.

For more on the 100% happiness fallacy and learning how to embrace your pain and rewrite your story, listen to my podcast (episode #594). If you enjoy listening to my podcast, please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing. And keep sharing episodes with friends and family and on social media. (Don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!).          

This podcast is sponsored by:  

Purity Woods. As someone who prioritizes my mental and physical wellbeing and knows how closely the mind, brain and body are connected, I am always looking for products that help me look and feel my best each day, which can be a challenge. How often do you buy skincare products because they’re labeled as “clean” and “organic” and “paraben-free” only to find out there are a hundred other toxic ingredients in them that are damaging to your skin and body? Well, the search is over! Purity Woods’s mission is to provide people with the cleanest and most effective healthy aging and longevity products available. All of their products are USDA certified organic, non-GMO, free of anything artificial, free of toxic preservatives and synthetic additives like pesticides, chemical fertilizers and dyes, parabens, and of course it’s cruelty free and never tested on animals. Purity Woods’s products leverage the wonders of a revolutionary ingredient: maple leaf extract. Maple leaves contain anti-inflammatory antioxidants and hydrating properties, which can help soothe irritated or inflamed skin while also plumping, brightening and nourishing it. I really love their Age-Defying Dream Cream. It truly is a game changer! It helps make me look and feel like I have jumped back years in time. Which is not surprising, since its powerful formula contains revolutionary maple leaf extracts plus over 25 unique and potent ingredients that help eliminate fine lines, wrinkles, age spots and uneven skin tone. So, turn back time on the appearance of your skin with Purity Woods’s Age-Defying Dream Cream. Purity Woods is currently offering 17% off sitewide but we have an additional 10% discount for our listeners for a total savings of 27%! Go to  or enter code MENTALMESS at checkout for an additional 10% off your first order. That P-U-R-I-T-Y-W-O-O-D-S dot com and enter code MENTALMESS for a total of 27% off your first order.

ZocDoc. I’m not sure when it happened, but it seems like everyone is in therapy these days. And I love that therapy is becoming normalized as a part of self-care and wellness. But finding the right therapist can feel really daunting, and ironically adds to the stress and mental load. Enter Zocdoc, the low-stress way to find and book the right therapist for your specific needs. Zocdoc is a FREE app and website where you can search and compare high quality, in-network doctors, choose the right one for your needs, and click to instantly book an appointment. We’re talking about in-network appointments with more than 100,000 healthcare providers across every specialty — from mental health to dental health, eye care to skin care, and much more. You can filter for doctors who take your insurance, who are located nearby, who are a good fit for any medical need you may have, and who are highly rated by verified patients.  You can also see their actual appointment openings, choose a time that works for you, and click to instantly book a visit. Plus, Zocdoc appointments happen fast, typically within just 24 - 72 hours of booking. You can even score same-day appointments. I love using ZocDoc, especially when traveling or when I am in a new city! In fact, my whole family uses the app—my daughter managed to find a new gynecologist the same day she found out she was pregnant on ZocDoc! So, stop putting off those doctors’ appointments and go to to find and instantly book a top-rated doctor today.

Podcast Highlights

2:05 The 100% happiness fallacy 

4:09 Toxic positivity can make us feel worse! 

6:20 Happiness is just one part of what it means to be human 

8:02 Happiness means different things to different people 

11:45 Feelings of happiness are actually pretty rare!

16:00 It is easy to feel unsatisfied even when we are happy

17:50 To be happy, we also must embrace & process the hard things in life

22:32 How to be okay with not being okay

This podcast and blog are for educational purposes only and are not intended as medical advice. We always encourage each person to make the decision that seems best for their situation with the guidance of a medical professional.

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