Happiness is a funny thing. From the moment we are born it becomes an instant obsession, and one that we often chase until death. We consult friends, family and millions of self-help articles and books on the topic each day, yet happiness still seems to allude so many of us. Why? Is it because this world is such an unhappy place? Or, do we just fail to see the opportunities for happiness that lurk all around us?
Life is an unpredictable journey, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn how to be happy in its most abject moments. True happiness isn’t something that occurs when your bank account hits a certain limit, and it’s not something that happens just because you meditate for an hour each day. Real and lasting happiness occurs when we drop our expectations and start defining our own lives, but that’s a journey on its own and one that can reveal some startling truths.
What is happiness?
In order to truly tap into the wellspring of internal happiness within you, you first have to familiarize yourself with the concept of happiness and define it. Happiness is defined by the dictionary as “feeling or showing pleasure or contentment,” but it’s a far more complex emotion than that.
More than just a feeling, happiness is a set of perceptions, recollections and multiple emotional responses that vary from situation and person. Our happiness isn’t just a single snapshot of “feeling good”. It’s a global assessment of our lives and our place within the world we’ve created for ourselves.
If you think that’s a little vague — there’s a reason for it. Happiness looks different to every single one of us. In order to truly discover what makes you happy, you have to take this definition and apply it to your life in way that allows you to tap into your authentic joy. In other words, you have to take this definition and expand it to fit your own life’s narrative. No one knows what makes you happy but you, so you have to sit down and figure out what that happiness looks like.
Why are we so obsessed with being happy?
We’re a people obsessed with being happy. No matter where you turn, there’s some book or corporation promising you the secret to happiness, but we feel more miserable than ever why? Why are we so obsessed with this idea of being happy?
On the superficial level, it’s because being happy makes us feel good. Happiness inspires a whole slew of other emotions, and these emotions can range from pleasure and joy to elation and excitement. Happiness makes our hearts swell and our souls quake. It makes us giddy and it makes us feel exhilarated. There are other reasons we find ourselves trapped in a happiness obsession, however, and not all of them are equally as pleasant.
We often confuse happiness with pleasure (a side effect of happiness), and this can cause us to find ourselves stuck on a “hedonic treadmill”. The hedonic treadmill is a trap that leaves you chasing superficial happiness that is strictly contained outside of yourself. Pleasure is visceral and in-the-moment, but it’s not a stable state. True happiness on the other hand, sticks around for longer than a fleeting second. It’s a state of existence, and one that can only be tapped into by you…