Is happiness a feeling or a state of being? What is its nature, and what are its causes?
Wikipedia defines happiness as “a mental or emotional state of well-being characterised by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy”. There can never be, any objective measurement of happiness based on external achievements. It is an interpretation of reality, and not a result of reality.
Actually, happiness is such a loaded term, that I wonder if it is the right one for what we are truly seeking. I personally prefer to speak of fulfilment, contentment, and well-being. The Greeks, on the other hand, spoke of eudamonia, the “well-lived life”
The problem seems to be understanding what causes human beings to continually experience this state. My research and self-experiments have led me to believe (that) there are three “kinds” of happiness: personal, trans-personal, (and) transcendental.
Sometimes just being happy is hard enough. Figuring out how to have a happy life can seem downright overwhelming.
The problem comes, however, when we keep delaying our happiness in favour of getting more things done so that we can be even happier later—or so we think. This delaying process can go on forever, turning into workaholic, which damages the very success and happiness we are seeking.
The reason we are so hooked on getting things done is that we believe the payoff that comes from achievements—an award or a larger savings account—will ultimately lead to the biggest payoff of all: happiness. But it doesn’t. We have the illusion that the success, fame, money—fill in the blank—that we are chasing will bring us some kind of lasting fulfilment. We often expect that we’ll be happy when we get this or that project over with. For example, you might think that if you work like a maniac, you’ll get a sought-after promotion with a big raise, which will ease your financial anxieties at home, and once that anxiety is gone . . . well, you’ll finally be happy. But there are major problems with constantly trying to get things done and focusing on the next thing: doing so ironically prevents you from being as successful as you want to be and wreaks havoc on body and mind. From the outside we may look like we have it all, but on the inside, we are burned out, not performing to our highest level, and feeling miserable both emotionally and physically, while our relationships suffer.
There’s an unfortunate reason why happiness is often elusive — our brains simply aren’t wired that way. Instead, our brains have evolved to survive, to protect ourselves, to keep us safe. Sure, we have moments of elation and periods of contentment and bliss. But many of us are plagued with persistent negative emotions — we are just plain stuck in the “blahs.”
1. Focus on the positive.
To find long-term happiness, you need to retrain your brain from a negative mindset to a positive mindset. Try these things: Spend one to two minutes looking for positives in your life. Do this three times a day for 45 days, and your brain will start doing it automatically.
Choose a positive mantra for the day — something you will repeat to yourself, such as “Today is beautiful” or “I feel grateful for all I have.” And when things go south, take a moment to try and see it from a positive light. Never underestimate the importance of recognising the silver linings in life.
2. Celebrate little victories.
Life is full of ups and downs, but in between we have a lot of little victories that go unnoticed. Take a moment to celebrate these small wins.
Did you check off all the things on your to-do list that you’ve been procrastinating on? Yay! Did you finally clear out a thousand emails that have been filling up your inbox? Woohoo! Take pleasure in these little achievements. They add up!
3. Find your work–life balance.
Work takes up a lot of our day, but it shouldn’t be the only thing we do. It’s important to pursue activities and interests beyond our job. Do you have a hobby? Are you spending time with friends and loved ones? Are you getting exercise? Creating balance in your life will reduce stress and give you other outlets to express yourself and have fun.
4. Practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness mediation works by bringing your awareness and attention to the present moment. It’s about being nonjudgmental and accepting how you are feeling. Practising mindfulness means being present, aware and curious. Accepting what we are going through decreases stress and helps us see situations for what they are. Through mindfulness, we can find peace and affirmation in ourselves.
5. Be creative.
You may think of artists as being moody and depressed, but studies show that engaging in creative activities on a regular basis actually makes you happier. Those who spend time using their imagination and being creative have more enthusiasm and are more likely to have feelings of long-term happiness and well-being. Such creative activities can include writing, painting, drawing and musical performance.
6. Accept imperfection.
Many of us strive for perfection — we desire to push ourselves to be our best. But in order to be truly happy, you must embrace the imperfection that is part of life. Perfection is impossible, and holding ourselves and others to these standards is futile. We will always end up feeling let down. Accept that life is imperfect and recognise that there is beauty and grace in that imperfection.
7. Do what you love.
It’s pretty hard to maintain happiness if you hate your job. Don’t waste the best years of your life in a joyless job, even if it’s paying the bills. What are you interested in? What are you truly passionate about? Focus on building a career in an area that motivates you and will provide you with a high level of satisfaction, and your happiness factor will go up exponentially.
8. Spend wisely.
It’s tempting to believe that the more money you have, the happier you’ll be. But the reality is, it’s how you spend your money that helps you feel happier. The key is to do it wisely. Spending money on experiences — travel, dining, concerts and so on — can make us happier because we are sharing those experiences with others. Happiness connected to material possessions fades, but experiences help us define our purpose and passions in life.
9. Live in the moment.
Our thoughts and feelings often revolve around the past or the future. Reality is what you are experiencing in this very moment; what you are going through right now. Sometimes we want to escape that reality. But when we stay in the present, we are fully engaged in our lives. Endeavour to live in the moment, and you’ll begin to have a deeper appreciation for your life.
10. Cultivate gratitude.
Find ways to cultivate gratitude on a daily basis. Giving thanks and being grateful for all you have will make you happier and more content. Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what you have received in life. Those gifts may be tangible or intangible. When you spend time each day acknowledging all that is good in life, you’ll see there is more good than you realise, and you’ll find that sadness, anxiety and depression are diminished.