How to be Happy in an Unhappy World

It can be disheartening to see all the wrongdoings happening in the world. And our techy connectivity makes it almost impossible to miss news of the day’s top ten atrocities. We were not built to deal with exposure to such widespread pain. At the same time, we don’t want to be ignorant. The question is how to be happy when we know that others are suffering. 

Accept every possible happiness. That is how to be happy in an unhappy world. Easier said than done, right? Begin by understanding a few things.


  1. There is always suffering.
  2. Guilt is for moral wrongdoings, not for feelings of joy. 
  3. A good attitude is not a luxury; it’s a responsibility.
  4. There is always joy to be found. 
Little boy showing us how to be happy

This post is about letting in joy amidst the knowledge of suffering.

The bad and the good will always be part of our world. Don’t give in to the fallacy that the bad is the more important of the two. This post begins by highlighting the darkness, but stick with it. You’ll see sunshine by the end.

*Many of us who are living indoor lives are directly suffering in some way ourselves, but I would like this post to focus the way we deal with the suffering of others. That being said, the same ideas can be applied (with a bit more effort) when we are suffering our own problems.


The Situation

Do Not Enter the unhappy world only mindset

Bad news first

You have not lived a single day when the world went without suffering, environmental degradation, corruption, even genocide. Humans are programmed to be a little bit fearful and greedy and this is what results. We’re not hopeless though. We get more and more civilized with time, and we’re almost as good at fixing things as we are at breaking them.

But what do you do when you learn about the pain of others (man, animal, and planet)? It’s tempting to think about it all and give up. It’s almost natural to feel that if others are not feeling joy then you should not be allowed to. We need to fight against that impulse, just like we fight against our fearful and greedy natures. You will get your own chance at direct suffering. Don’t take the time without it for granted.


A world that shuns happiness

If everyone collapsed into misery with the knowledge of suffering, what would this world be? Hell. It would be Hell. How would you have felt, if on your worst day, everyone on the planet was hopeless and angry? Not very motivated, I bet.

We don’t lessen the pain of others by creating our own. In fact, it is our joy that gives others hope. Who would go to the trouble of fighting their way out of their own suffering if there was no example of happiness on the outside? A good attitude is like wearing a mask in a crowd during a pandemic. It is good for you AND your community. This is especially true during tough times. When the world is dark, your light is needed.


What this doesn’t mean

Unhappy boy crying inside window with hands on glass
I am not saying *“smile though your heart is aching.” You shouldn’t ignore your feelings. Pain and discomfort are part of life, and they are valuable. They direct us to safety and encourage improvements. It’s okay to feel sad, frustrated, and angry. But if the wind blows those clouds out of the way for a minute, let that sunshine through! Don’t get attached to misery. Be brave and let go whenever you can. 

I am also not saying to ignore the evil in the world. Whenever you are able, fight that junk! When a cause touches you, feel it and do what you can to help. Then, when someone tells a terrible, terrible donkey joke, let yourself laugh. Don’t you dare hold that in, ever.

Why you might have a head start

Happy woman in marathon lead exhibiting head start on how to be happy

At my own worst times, I did need sympathy, but it was the humor and joy that drove me to fight my battle. We, who have met hefty adversity, have a headstart on this attitude-for-humanity mindset. When you are suffering, you see how important moments of joy are. That includes the moments belonging to others. Every time I saw someone laughing, or smiling, or winning, I saw the stars I was reaching for.

Someone once told me that if a person has the luxury of being able to complain, they’re doing just fine. When they said it, I thought “Shut up! I am not doing well and I want to talk about it!” But after I let his comment sink in, I was comforted. When you’re really struggling, there’s no time for complaining. He was right. If I can complain, my problem is not all consuming. I am capable of more than the struggle. Our challenges bring us strength by showing us that the true effect of attitude.

But how? How be happy in an unhappy world?

Happy woman amazed by falling snow

You might be thinking “that’s great, but how can I cultivate a good attitude when the world seems to be crumbling?” Simply pay attention to when you shut happiness down. When something beautiful catches your eye and you just march on by, stop and remember to appreciate the beauty. When you see someone you enjoy, allow yourself to smile a real smile. It’s as simple as ALLOWING yourself to feel good. Guilt does not need to hold hands with joy. It’s time for them to break up. You get to enjoy the good, and it’s your moral obligation to do so.* Making a habit of seeing the good is how to be happy in a world with suffering. It’s also the best way to break the much easier habit of focusing on the negatives.

Gratitude writing is a great way to feed the happiness habit. At the end of each day, write down five things that you enjoyed. They can be the smallest details. The more you pay attention to the good, the more good you will see. It takes effort in the beginning, but soon enough your happiness blinders will drop away. You will find that there is so much to enjoy. And if you are suffering directly, this is an excellent practice in hope. It’s okay to be hurting, but don’t let anything stop you from a moment of joy.

And don’t worry about losing your edge

Happiness is strength in an unhappy world
Opening yourself up to happiness will not blind you to the problems that need attention in our world. It will only make you stronger, more hopeful, and more effective in combating them. We don’t think clearly when we are mired in frustration or anger, and we are not seeing the whole picture if we ignore the pros. You will find powerful ways to improve your world if you focus on the good that you are hoping to serve.

So let yourself smile (insert virtual slap across the face)!

Hand ready to slap someone for not letting themselves be happy in an unhappy world

Live Wonderfully Now

Thank you for reading. Explore to find inspiration for a fabulous indoor life. And, of course, keep an eye on the blog. Remember to strive for purpose and connection. Let that smile out every chance you get. And live wonderfully now.

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*Nat King Cole

*Dennis Prager

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What brought you happiness today?
Leave a comment and tell us about a good moment in your day. My morning has only just begun and I have had at least two wonderful moments. I added chocolate to my coffee, and my dog went wild with zoomies. I let myself enjoy both.