What Is Happiness, Where Do We Find It and How Can We Be Happy?

What Is Happiness, Where Do We Find It and How Can We Be Happy?

When asked what they seek most from this life, pretty much everyone in humanity would probably answer that with the word happiness. We are all essentially constantly asking ourselves the question: “How can I be happier?”

What many can’t easily define, however, is what happiness actually means for them. But if you can’t define it, then how can you find it? Without understanding what that happiness marker is for you then its pursuit becomes an immeasurable task, literally in that you cannot measure it. And as the saying goes: “you can’t change what you can’t track”.

What we do know is that happiness is relative and its experience, emotion and expression is different for each and every one of us.

So, one of the most important things we can do for ourselves in the pursuit of happiness is clearly defining what that term and state of being means for us as individuals and what are the actions we can take to both create it in the moment and manage it in the future.

In other words, happiness is not actually something to be found, but is instead something we cultivate.   

Happiness is relative!

Happiness is relative

Happiness is a state of well-being characterized by emotions ranging from contentment and satisfaction to intense joy and bliss. It is a complex and multifaceted concept that can be perceived as both a balanced constant or as a fleeting and elusive state of ecstasy.

Its perception and circumstances are also influenced by a variety of factors, including personal circumstances, relationships, achievements, and most importantly individual mindset. 

Happiness is a subjective experience and varies from person to person as well as from situation to situation.

This means that what makes one person happy might not necessarily bring the same level of happiness to another. And those things that make people happy are also not a constant and can change throughout an individual’s life. This makes the definition of what happiness is quite fluid as it can shapeshift into different forms depending on what gives our lives meaning and purpose, our values and perspective.

What is set in stone, however, is that we are the ones to define our own happiness and the actions and mindset to adopt to achieve it.  

That said: there are a few key concepts and constants that ring true for most in the pursuit of happiness. Looking to the words of authors, philosophers and public figures we revere gives us a clue into a very common theme for what happiness for them means.

Famous Quotes on Happiness

Famous Quotes on Happiness

Aristotle: “Happiness depends upon ourselves.”

Marcus Aurelius: “The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.”

Buddha: “There is no path to happiness: happiness is the path.”

Dalai Lama: “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”

Albert Einstein: “If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.”

Mahatma Gandhi: “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”

Helen Keller: “Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson:“For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.”

Don’t Seek Happiness. Define and Create It!

What we know is that happiness, fleeting or prevailing, often involves experiencing positive emotions such as joy, gratitude, love, and pleasure. Happiness can also be expressed as having inner peace through experiencing an overall sense of contentment with one’s life and circumstances.

One of the highest forms of happiness is being consistently consciously aware of the moment. Over time, it involves having more positive experiences than negative ones, which can be done by choosing to see, act and feel through the lens of love and not fear

How to Be Happy

How to Be Happy

Beyond fleeting pleasure, known as hedonic happiness, which focuses on the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain is eudaimonic happiness, which is derived from living a meaningful and purposeful life that contributes to the greater good.

This form of happiness, defined by Aristotle, is achieved through personal growth, self-actualization, living in accordance with values and realizing one’s full potential. This form of happiness is persistent in the good times and bad and is actually very much in our own power to sustainably achieve.

We just need to acquire the awareness to adopt the right mindset and actions to take to be the proverbial boss of our own self to successfully maintain this elevated state of being through managing our own happiness.  

So What Makes Us Happy?

The following are ten of the most prevalent categories for which we can take action to manage our happiness. 

  1. Relationships: Strong, supportive relationships with family, friends, and romantic partners are crucial for happiness. Being part of a community and social connections provide emotional support, a sense of belonging, and opportunities for shared experiences.
  2. Purpose and Meaning: Having a sense of purpose and engaging in activities that provide meaning and fulfillment can significantly enhance happiness. This might involve pursuing passions, engaging in meaningful work, or contributing to causes that matter to you.
  3. Personal Growth: Continual personal development and growth, whether through learning new skills, achieving goals, or overcoming challenges, can foster a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
  4. Physical Health: Good physical health, regular exercise, quality sleep and a balanced diet contribute to overall well-being and happiness. Exercise, in particular, has been shown to boost mood and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  5. Mental Health: Managing stress, practicing self-care, seeking ways to improve mental health and choosing love not fear is how to keep negative thoughts and emotions at bay.
  6. Positive Emotions: Experiencing positive emotions like joy, gratitude, and love can increase happiness. Practicing gratitude and mindfulness can help cultivate these positive feelings. 
  7. Financial Stability: While money alone doesn’t buy happiness, financial stability can reduce stress and provide a sense of security. Beyond a certain point, however, increased income has diminishing returns on happiness.
  8. Work Satisfaction: Enjoying one’s work and finding it meaningful significantly impacts happiness. A positive work environment, opportunities for advancement, and a good work-life balance are important factors. Having your work be your ikigai, in other words your calling, contributes greatly to life satisfaction. 
  9. Mindfulness and Present-Moment Awareness: Being present and fully engaged in the current moment can lead to greater happiness. Mindfulness practices can help reduce stress and increase enjoyment of everyday experiences.
  10. Acts of Kindness: Helping others and engaging in acts of kindness can boost happiness. Giving and receiving support fosters a sense of connection and purpose.

The Pursuit of Happiness

The Pursuit of Happiness

Happiness is a dynamic state that can be nurtured through various practices and lifestyle choices.

This means that living according to our values, having a vision and mission, ie. a purpose in life, cultivating habits to create positive change, helping others, being grateful, tending to our health and well-being, seeing challenges as opportunities for growth and forging strong relationships can be seen as simple steps that can be taken to create our own happiness.

While these actions set the stage for long-term inner peace and sustainable happiness, their application in practice is a way to instantly and actively engage in happiness.

In other words: happiness can be achieved in an instant and maintained through calculated management of all of the factors that contribute to it in our lives. Having the right tools for managing happiness is how we can be happy right now as well as the answer to the question of how we can be happier more consistently in the future. 

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Leyla Ergil