Poets, philosophers and theologians, not to mention almost every person in the world, has thought about happiness. What is it? Can we define it? Whilst these are important questions, perhaps a more useful question is
- What Does Happiness Mean to YOU?
When you start to think about this, then you may well understand that this is a hugely complicated question – but some areas to consider and help you to develop awareness of your own happiness may include:
1 – Happiness is not a thing. We may think it is a new dress, a fancy car, beautiful house – a lottery win. But think about it? There are many wealthy people who claim to be unhappy. Or seem to be unhappy as the price of fame and fortune can take its toll.
- Happiness Is a State of Mind
2 – Happiness is a right. Many people feel that happiness should be a permanent way of life? For some this IS the case – but we must be careful to decide on our ingredients to happiness here. Is happiness the same as contentment, acceptance, security, peace, confidence? Are these components to constructing happiness or something else? Like many things with meaning, happiness may need to be learnt or earned, and too much of any good thing usually ends up being bad!
3 – Happiness is about other people. Indeed, for lot of us not fooled into trying to buy happiness through new trainers, faster cars and probably more loans (!) then our focus turns away from the material to the aspect of relationships. Most of us can see the connection between others and our happiness. We find love in our family life or social life and we may lose love in our family life and social life and each situation seems key to how we feel – happy or heartbroken?
And that is a problem.
True happiness must surely be independent of others? Yes, having others can increase the emotions we feel, but if we can only be happy with others around us, then it seems that we tread a treacherous path.
4 – Happiness is about success. Many people pursue success with real ferocity. Perhaps if we all pursued happiness like we pursue success, we would live in a better world? It sometimes seems as if happiness and success are one and the same but they are not. The pursuit of success may have a positive emotional impact upon us – hitting goals, setting targets, getting more rather than less. But think about it, a lot of successful people feel they sacrifice to get success and often feel success came at a cost to happiness – missing kids growing up, not having free time, never looking up for a moment. Think about people you may know or have heard of who work hard all their lives, never miss an hour at work, and then drop dead at retirement. They saved up their life for a promise of future happiness – and sadly never made it.
5 – Happiness is fleeting. If we walked around grinning inanely every day, then many people would find that a bit odd. It is almost as if modern society conditions us to questions happiness as a pure emotion. Of course, happiness is unlikely to be permanent; to have light we need dark, to have calm we need storms. However, perhaps happiness to you means being able to recognize it! Often we are so busy with our chores, our work, our duties, our worries we may fail to notice the tiny provocative things around us. The light at sunset, the yellow of a petal, the giggles of children, a kindness from a stranger – all joyous events, which may not be that uncommon.
So having spent a little time reflecting upon what happiness might mean, try applying some simple techniques to measure where you think your happy-meter might be.
Ask yourself –
- If I was in my perfect place, would someone else there make it better?
If so, that person makes you happy!
- If I didn’t have to be in my office now, where would I rather be?
Imagine that place, get a post card/picture of it and use it as a tool to make you smile
- If I could do one thing before I die it would be what?
Well, get a move on – book the plane, visit the location, speak to that person, paint that picture, write that book!
Perhaps happiness forces us to stop for a moment and think about our expectations. Maybe it doesn’t matter whether happiness lasts for days or an hour or but a moment, perhaps what brings us happiness is realising that we can achieve it – simply, quietly, freely and from the inside; that to be happy we need no one and nothing but ourselves. Try to find a whisper of happiness in your day today – if only for a second.