How do you define your happiness? It’s an important definition to think about if you consider that it is one of the most highly rated ‘wants’ in life. You might be thinking that you don’t need to define it. You know when you’re feeling happy, and you know the things that make you happy. Done. But happiness is not just that feeling of joy that you get when you eat a delicious meal with friends, finally get the job you wanted or marry the love of your life. Those are wonderful moments that should be appreciated and celebrated, however, they do not equate to a lasting overall happiness in your daily life. Some days the dream job is stressful and frustrating. The love of your life is human and therefore imperfect. And that delicious meal? It’s turned into many more delicious meals and therefore a battle with the scale.
So then, what does it take to experience happiness?
It is helpful to think about the things in your life that reduce your happiness in order to zoom in on what happiness is for you. When do you feel down or anxious? Many of our negative emotions stem from wrestling with the unknown, lacking passion in our lives and limiting the effort we put into our relationships.
Happiness is Acceptance
If you were sure that an interview or a date was going to go brilliantly, would you still be anxious? Probably not. Instead you would live in a blissful state knowing that everything was going to work out in the end! But what if you were able to do that from the get go? Instead of anxiously awaiting the outcome, what if you were able to choose acceptance? Start by accepting that those future events might not go 100% the way you would have liked, and then accepting any results that may come. Happiness is in knowing that you can accept the variation of results and that you will be more than fine with it once it happens.
Acceptance is one of the most simple ways to be happy, and yet one of the hardest to practice. Uncertainty is a natural part of life, and the better we are able to accept it, the happier we will be. Academy Award winner, Shirley MacLain, says it best, "To be happy, you have to be willing to be compliant with not knowing." If we can accept the fact that we must practice patience, that there are only so many things in this life we have control over, and that sometimes we may never find the answers we are looking for, then we will find our happiness grows exponentially.
Happiness is Pursuing Passions
Another trigger for unhappiness is a lack of passion in your life. Of course, having a job that fulfills your passion is ideal. But if you have yet to find your path to your optimal career, you can fulfill your passions with hobbies, personal projects, or learning new skills. Research shows that if you are not actively engaged with a passion you choose for yourself, you might end up living an unfulfilling life. Do you play the guitar? Do you run marathons? Do you parent with passion? What do you do that ignites a fire in your soul? Without a passion in your life, you will feel stagnation. The ancient Greeks defined happiness as “the joy that we feel when we’re striving after our potential." We were not built to lead empty and purposeless lives. Each and every one of us is capable of finding and pursuing a passion. You do not need to be the best at this passion, and it doesn’t need to be something you do every single day. You can even change your passion every other month if you want to! As long as you are working on honing a craft, practicing a skill or exploring new hobbies, then you are taking the time to better yourself and deepen the meaning in your life.
Happiness is Seeking Connections
Another fundamental element that gives us purpose and therefore happiness is human connection. We are hard-wired to seek out connection with others. The happiness that comes from sharing moments with other people is immeasurable. As humans we need to maintain loving and supportive relationships in order to feel fulfilled. Eleanor Roosevelt said: "Someone once asked me what I regarded as the three most important requirements for happiness. My answer was: A feeling that you have been honest with yourself and those around you; a feeling that you have done the best you could both in your personal life and in your work; and the ability to love others." When we give to others, whether it is our love, our help, or simply an honest connection, we create an ongoing pattern of unity. A pattern that will continue to push us forward on our happiness journey.
So how can we define happiness?
Happiness is harnessing the power of acceptance, passion, and connection.
This is one definition of happiness, what is yours?