Know how to be happy? Just do all these things! Get this degree from that university, earn this amount of money, and buy that new car. Then make sure you eat these 12 things. Do this HIIT routine. Choose this smartphone. Live in a 2,400 square foot house and give x amount of time and x money to charity.
Oops sorry, it’s really an 875 square foot home, this electric car, these 15 superfoods, and this floating yoga workout to achieve happiness. Or not.
Do you ever feel like today it’s these 25 things and tomorrow it’s these 3,000 things that you ‘must do’ to be happy? What was supposed to give you joy yesterday, is something different today or next month? Been there done that. Big titles and big houses, fancy cars, and diamond rings, they sure as hell aren’t everything.
“It’s not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.” ~ Charles Spurgeon
While the big office and paycheck, sexy vehicles, and large home may feel good temporarily, eventually they won’t anymore. You might get 15 happy days or just 15 blissful minutes. Then the corporate career with its 45-minute commute and inefficient meetings starts to get to you. Cleaning the big house becomes a tedious chore, the shiny SUV gets a few scratches and dings, and you just dropped your smartphone in the bathtub.
Why is happiness so hard to find and hold on to?
Is happiness something we do or feel? What role does our genetic makeup or our environment play? Will we find happiness if we reach something, create something, or stop doing something else?
These questions are tricky. What we know for sure – happiness is hugely subjective.
Scientists discovered part of the answer lies in our genes. But, while there is substantial evidence it’s related to our DNA, there isn’t one so-called gene for happiness. Instead, it’s many genes interacting with our environmental experiences and our choices in life, ultimately influencing our happiness levels. Research claims 50% of our ability to be happy depends on genetic factors, 10% on external circumstances and 40% on us.
What Is Happiness and How Do We BE Happy?
There are two types of happiness psychologists often refer to and primarily attribute to the Greek philosophers Aristippus and Aristotle:
Hedonic Wellbeing – The notion that increased pleasure (positive emotions) and decreased pain (negative emotions) leads to happiness or ‘the good life.’ Positive emotions include feelings of joy, curiosity, pride, awe, and excitement. Negative emotions include feelings of sadness, jealousy, anger, shame, guilt, stress, or despair.
Eudaimonic Wellbeing – It’s based on a person’s satisfaction with their life. A reflection of how one experiences life. The actions, challenges, purpose, and meaning of life. Flow, growth, belonging, autonomy, and contribution are all notions related to, or a part of, eudaimonic happiness.
Positive psychology suggests the pursuit of both hedonic wellbeing (pleasure) and eudaimonic wellbeing (engagement and meaning) provides pure and lasting happiness. The danger comes in pursuing one without the other.
Happiness is also described as having four levels, again attributed to Aristotle:
Level I – Laetus: Happiness from a thing. This type of joy is short-lived and stems from something external to the self.
Level II – Felix: Happiness from ‘better than’ comparison for ego gratification. Happiness resulting from how we measure up to others. This type of joy is fickle and can lead to unhappiness and sense of worthlessness if one loses. It also has the potential to alienate others and lead to self-absorption, jealousy, and bitterness.
Level III – Beatitudo: This happiness arises from doing good for others and seeing the good in the world. It’s based on a desire for connection, meaning, compassion, friendship, love, and togetherness. It is, in essence, moving away from thinking of ourselves to focus on the wellbeing of others. This level of happiness is higher than level II. The downside is that it can also be limiting if one strives to be someone else’s everything.
Level IV – Sublime Beatitudo: The search for ultimate perfection and happiness. The everything of beauty, truth, goodness, and love. It’s a call for connection to something for which we are incapable of reaching or doing solely on our own. A quest to find answers to some of the big questions of life and the universe through religion, philosophy, art, or scientific endeavors.
So What Is Happiness?
A combination of who you are, how satisfied you are with your life – your connection with others and the purpose or meaning of your work, and how good you feel day-to-day. While our lives change and our moods vary, our natural level of happiness is also genetically determined. Fortunately, we can change. With consistent effort, we can choose how to be happy.
“Think of it like you think about weight: if you eat how you want to and are as active as you want to be, your body will settle at a certain weight. But if you eat less than you’d like or exercise more, your weight will adjust accordingly. If that new diet or exercise regimen becomes part of your everyday life, then you’ll stay at this new weight. If you go back to eating and exercising the way you used to, your weight will return to where it started. So it goes, too, with happiness.” ~ Acacia Parks, Ph.D
Choose How To Be Happy
Some people spend their whole lives searching for happiness. Chasing money, earning promotions, and spending time with the people who aren’t their family or friends only to feel unfulfilled in the end. But it’s no secret happiness is more than wealth, what you do in life, or who you know. It’s also about your mindset and about how you respond to things that happen not only to you but around you as well.
Traits genuinely happy people have:
- Expressing Gratitude. Happy people are grateful. With appreciation for what one has in life, comes satisfaction. Without gratitude one is always looking for more, no matter what is already owned.
- Living In The Moment. Happy people are tuned in to the present. They don’t dwell on the past or always think about the future. They are focused on being happy right now.
- Finding Humor. Happy people find humor in almost anything. They appreciate jokes and laugh out loud when something is funny. They are quick with a smile and surround themselves with others who enjoy good humor.
- Radiating Confidence. Faith in one’s abilities makes them less worried about whether or not they’re good enough. So they spend more time trying to accomplish things. Confident people tend to perform better when facing challenges and experience less stress overall.
- Adapting in the face of Change. Life is unpredictable, and change is frequent. Those with more adaptability increase their wellbeing more than those who find change difficult. The happiest people in life are the ones who focus on finding the best way around obstacles.
- Remaining Persistent. Those who persevere and endure are the happiest. They do more, achieve more, and overcome more. They are diligent and don’t give up.
- Being Optimistic. Positive thinking can be powerful. Believing that things will always work out helps one manage stress and think more positively about current events and situations.
- Celebrating Others. Rather than observing and comparing themselves to those who’ve accomplished, they tend to celebrate others successes and use them as motivation to achieve more within their own lives.
- Showing Empathy. Being kind and compassionate to others leads to happiness. Engaging in small acts of kindness, taking an interest in other people’s lives and their happiness. Being of service to others brings about a broader sense of meaning and purpose. Beatitudo, happiness from living for something other than yourself.
- Valuing Intangibles. Happy people don’t obsess over getting a particular position, making a certain amount of money, or having specific things. They’re more concerned with family, friends, and time together. Prizing experiences over possessions.
“It isn’t what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about.” ~Dale Carnegie
Overly focusing on the past or striving for the future won’t allow you to live in the present. Failing to express gratitude for what you have or show appreciation for the smaller things in life, will keep you unsatisfied and unfulfilled. Dwelling on negative thoughts keeps you closed off to receiving happier ones.
Being afraid of making mistakes assumes there is a perfect way of doing something, which there isn’t. Ignoring relationships and forgetting to make time for the things you love will keep you feeling like a hamster running on a wheel.
Choose happiness instead. Take time to think about what truly matters to you and ensure you follow through on whatever that may be. Do what excites you. Allow yourself to make mistakes and experience imperfection. Embrace change, count your blessings and relish the moments. Take small chances every day. And don’t take yourself too seriously.
Laugh and Love
Laughter is beneficial for your emotional and your physical health. It releases endorphins, lowers stress hormones, relaxes your muscles, and decreases pain. It can strengthen relationships, diffuse anger, and attract others. Laughter helps you view the world from a better perspective, and It’s essential for creating a happy life.
Love yourself and others. Ignore what other people are doing and worry less about what they think of you. Invest in yourself and put your heart into your work and your fun. Choose not to feel sorry for yourself and fight hard for what you believe in. Practice patience and forgiveness. Connect with others and spend time with the right people.
Achieve the happy life you desire. Choose happy.
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