We all want to be happy but what is happiness exactly to any of us?
Fortunately, being happy is easier said than done for many people. If you are one of the people who struggle to be happy, you may look at others and wonder how they appear to be so happy and how you can be too.
Well, the first step is to understand exactly what happiness is and what contributes to our happiness.
What works for one person might not work for you.
The good news is the harder we work for our happiness, the more likely we will be to enjoy life to the fullest on our short ride here on Earth.
But before you can reach the happiness state, you need to understand what is happiness to you because it’s different for every. And only then you can take steps to see that happiness.
What Is Happiness Exactly?
A lot of people throughout the years have attempted to answer this question with varying degrees of effectiveness. Here are some of the best answers that I found quite moving.
“Happiness is a choice, not a result. Nothing will make you happy until you choose to be happy. No person will make you happy unless you decide to be happy. Your happiness will not come to you. It can only come from you.” – Ralph Marston
“Happiness is a direction, not a place.” – Sydney J. Harris
“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” – Abraham Lincoln
“Whoever is happy will make others happy.” – Anne Frank
“The only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open.” – Chuck Palahniuk
“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” – Dalai Lama
“The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance, the wise grows it under his feet.” – James Oppenheim
The most important thing that you have to keep in mind is that happiness is being in a state of pleasure or contentment. It is a temporary state of being.
A person is happy in a moment of time. It is not a character trait to describe a person. This makes sense if you think about it. Not one person on this planet is happy their entire life. That would be impossible. If it was true, how would the person even know what truly make them happy?
It would be difficult to understand happiness if you didn’t feel any sadness or emotional pain during the course of your life. That can make a lot of people think that happiness describes small bites of joy.
There are two ways to think of happiness in relation to time.
Generally speaking, there are two schools of thought when it comes to happiness: hedonic happiness and eudaimonic happiness.
Hedonic happiness refers to the happiness of well-being pleasure. Examples of hedonic happiness include eating a delicious piece of fruit or having sex.
Eudaimonic happiness refers to having a purpose in life and making strides to that ultimate goal. An example of eudaemonic happiness is visiting a grandparent when your meaning in life is to be there for your family.
Happiness comes from passing positive litigation if your main goal is to end poverty in the country.
Many people make the mistake of focusing solely on hedonic happiness. Unfortunately, satisfying hedonic happiness right now can affect future happiness.
It’s necessary for you to consider creating long-term happiness because it will give you a permanent fulfillment in life instead of the now state.
The takeaway key is obtaining the balance between the hedonic and eudaimonic happiness. You don’t want to focus too much on your long-term happiness that you miss out on the little pleasures along the way.
Many people in the psychology community use a more technical phrase for happiness: subjective well-being. Essentially, that means that happiness is the state of believing you are feeling pleasure. Thus, that means that happiness will be different for different people.
One person might see themselves as experiencing joy while skydiving while that situation might be the exact opposite of happiness for someone else. That means that happiness is different for everyone.
Of course, just how happiness can be different for different people, many people in the psychology world have different definitions of happiness. Some people see it as an end goal. Other people see it as the journey.
Some see happiness as momentary while others see it as something more long-lasting. The answer is that it might be a mix of a number of things. There are a large number of factors that come into play when it comes to our happiness.
Things that Affect Happiness
Despite the differences in opinion about what happiness is, people can agree that there are certain aspects of life that show a connection with the concept of happiness. Those factors include:
Most of us are lucky enough to go through the majority of our lives in good health. We don’t know how lucky we are until something devastating happens. It’s tragic, but people get bad news about their health every single day. Many times, it happens way too early in life. Obviously, this will take a toll on someone’s happiness.
After all, if someone is in a grim situation, how can they possibly be happy? It’s a sad situation.
Believe it or not, people with chronic and even terminal illnesses or injuries are happier than those with good health. Just because someone is struggling in that one (admittedly) major aspect of life, that doesn’t mean the person cannot find joy in a variety of other things.
Many times, it’s important for them to enjoy life to the best of their ability just in the small case they won’t have the opportunity later.
Every family has its issues. It’s practically in the definition of family.
However, family is also the biggest source of support (or lack thereof). These relationships are some of your earliest relationships. That means they have the ability to affect your social relationships and happiness for the rest of your life.
Many times, family treats us with love and support. They show us what it’s like to have people in your corner. It becomes easier to develop meaningful relationships and trust.
Alternatively, family can sometimes be the biggest source of our unhappiness. If you can relate, you may know how hard it can be to be happy after, family problems. In these cases, it’s important to take control over your own happiness.
Yes, your family might have hindered your happiness, but they can’t stop it. Make a decision to overcome it.
Another thing I want you to keep in mind is that you can’t control the things that happened with the people in your family, you can only control how you handle those situations as an adult.
We all have opinions about what’s going on in the world around us. Some of us feel very strongly in those beliefs.
A large portion of happiness can come from upholding those values and even helping change the world to also adhere to those values. These values can be freedom, equality, living a wholesome life, helping children, or giving people the ability to express themselves.
No matter what your values may be, when you contribute to causes with the same values, it can help you feel a sense of purpose.
The amount of money someone has coming in can affect their happiness significantly.
While money does play a role in a person’s happiness, it certainly isn’t everything. Trust me, I know a lot of rich people are miserable than the people who have a lot less than them.
Also, studies show that at a certain point, money doesn’t contribute to happiness anymore.
Money is connected to a person’s happiness for its ability to reduce the extreme pressures of being under the poverty line.
At a certain point, people feel comfortable in their ability to provide for themselves and their family. At this point, the effect on happiness will plateau. This point is at about $75,000 a year. If you make more than that, it’s assumed that you don’t have a lot of financial problems since you make enough to support a family with relative comfort.
Certain aspects of our happiness are determined before we are even born. While we are largely a product of our environment or our own personal decisions, some aspects are genetic. That means that they are uncontrollable parts of our personality.
The number of aspects of your personality that determine your happiness varies based on who you ask. People have estimated anywhere between 10% – 50%.
How are we predisposition, though? It’s not like there’s a specific genre that affects happiness. Well, there actually might be. The gene is called 5-HTTLPR. It’s a gene known to be correlated with the proper distribution of serotonin.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects a person’s mood. While this gene is not the only gene associated with serotonin distribution, it is the easiest gene to isolate in relation to serotonin.
Fraternal twins who had the same upbringing but different sized 5-HTTLPR showed that those with longer 5-HTTLPR genes were happier.
While there is a lot of research still required to get the full picture on how genetics play a role in our happiness, it’s still interesting to learn about how we can possibly be affected from birth.
Even if we were born predisposition to depression, that doesn’t mean that we can’t take action to be happier.
It’s important to note that you do not have to be fulfilled in all areas of life in order to be a happy person. It’s completely possible to be happy as long as a person has most of their needs covered.
People are very different, so one person may prioritize one particular need that someone else would put at the bottom of their list. That is what makes us different.
Have you ever tried to visualize a happy place? Have you ever tried to picture someone else’s? They would be very different.
What makes you happy isn’t the same thing that is going to make someone else happy. Not only do people have drastically different tastes, but they also prioritize different things in life. These differences are only beneficial to us, though.
The unique things that make you happy are part of what makes you individual.
When you chase your happiness, you are chasing your authentic self. Finding your authentic self will give you a true sense of pleasure. with depth to it. It will also help you socially. If you don’t show other people what makes you happy, you will miss out on some great relationships.
You have to be true to yourself in order for people to know the real you. Pretending certain things make you happy because it’s what you think you are supposed to do will only help you achieve surface-level happiness.
So, what is happiness to you? Do you know the answer yet? Don’t worry if you don’t, most people I know are still searching for theirs.
What is Not Happiness?
To get a better understanding of what is happiness, it’s a good idea to go over what it is not.
Happiness does not mean that you will never feel sad again. Sadness is a normal and healthy emotion. The goal is to feel less sadness, but it’s unrealistic to think you won’t experience any sadness at all. It also doesn’t mean that you’ll be blissfully blind to the negative aspects of the world. There is still sadness, fear, and pain.
Nevertheless, happiness is learning how to handle these things in a constructive and positive way. If you feel bad about some of the bad things in the world, instead of being sad about it, you can take steps to better the situation.
You can actually use the negative to create happiness.
Happiness is also not equivalent to success. Some of the most successful people in the world find they are still not completely fulfilled. Just having money isn’t going to solve all of your problems. It won’t necessarily make up unhappy, though.
Finally, happiness is not only an end result. It’s not some ultimate moment at the end of your life. The journey has to be a part of your happiness. Just not all of it.
What Can Happen When You are Unhappy?
Unhappy people will see both physical and mental implications as well as having a much lower quality of life altogether.
It’s hard enough to stay healthy that we can’t let unhappiness affect our health in any negative way.
People who are happier are generally much healthier than unhealthy people. It contributes to the immune system, fights disease, keeps our hearts strong, and reduces the small aches and pains of getting older.
It’s not just our own unhappiness we have to worry about. If the people around us are constantly unhappy, it can become contagious.
In fact, a study showed that children from homes with unhappy mothers were more likely to be unhappy themselves. Many times, like in the examples of mothers and their children, you can’t necessarily avoid the unhappy people around you. It can be difficult but impossible to eliminate certain toxic people from your life, though.
Practical Tips for Being Happier
Many people don’t realize that happiness is something we can easily control. It may take some persistence, but, with time, you can train yourself to be happier.
Here are a number of ways to reach your desirable happy state.
1. Nurture Healthy Relationships
Many people think happiness is a solitary concept. On the contrary, our relationships with other people play a large role in our happiness. We are social creatures, and it’s important to nurture our social needs.
When you have good people in your life, you need to keep in touch with those people. Staying in contact will make you feel much better about yourself.
It’s not only the amount of time you spend with someone. You want to spend quality time with people.
It’s been shown that superficial relationships don’t offer the same amount of emotional satisfaction as deep, meaningful relationships. For that reason, skip the small talk. Start to talk about deep stuff with the people in your life. They deserve to know your true thoughts about things.
Talk about spirituality, things you love, family, and friendship. These conversations will give you more satisfying relationships. After you create those strong relationships, you will have more meaning in your life.
You don’t want to start talking about overly serious things with strangers. This can make you appear intimidating or too serious or worse insecure.
2. Eat Well
The things we put in our body have an impact on our mood. Think about how you feel after you eat junk food. You probably feel sluggish and unmotivated.
But, when you eat well, you’ll feel a lot better physically. When you feel better physically, you will feel better mentally and emotionally.
Try changing your diet to include a lot of fresh fruit, vegetables, and lean protein. Examples of lean protein include chicken and fish.
Even more important than eating well is drinking well. Be sure to get the necessary water you need to keep your body hydrated. Our body is made mostly of water, so it won’t function properly if it doesn’t get enough water.
3. Avoid Excessive Use of Drugs and Alcohol
Drugs and alcohol are a serious problem in our society today. It’s a problem because it will distract from the things that make us truly happy by filling that void with temporary happiness in the form of intoxication.
When the drugs and alcohol wear off, your problems (and sadness) will still be there. If you abuse drugs and alcohol, you may even wake up to more stress and sadness.
That’s not to say that people can’t successfully drink and use drugs recreationally while also being happy. The key here is moderation. If you do choose to partake, keep it to a minimum. In fact, it’s a good idea to save those moments for the really important events.
4. Help Others
My all-time favorite and always will be is helping others, for what I have gone through in my life, I want to end suffering for others because I know the pain quite too well.
Landing someone a hand isn’t only important for the people we help. It’s also important for us. By helping others, it can fill a special part of us.
Look up charities in your area that support the things you care about the most. Spend just a little bit of your time helping out every week. You will feel good because you helped people. Ultimately, you’ll also feel good for helping out humanity as a whole.
Doing charity can help give you purpose in a big way. Instead of being a part of the problem, you are a part of the solution. While many people have nihilistic and cynical thoughts, charity can show a different side of humanity and life in general.
5. Join a Community
It’s human nature to want to connect to something. Therefore, it’s helpful for people who are lost or hurt to join a specific community to feel that sense of belonging.
Examples of communities to join include a church, an academic community, a fraternity/sorority, a gym, or even a book club. This is perfect for people who have social issues or a lack of family.
That’s because these communities put someone in a position to be around similar-minded people. This makes it easier to socialize- you will likely have something to talk about. There will also probably be some sort of organization or structure to give people the opportunity to speak.
6. Become One with Nature
We live on a beautiful planet. Sadly, as I see too often, most of us are more focused on our smartphones and computers to step back and really enjoy the beauty.
We should all make time to step away for a little bit and get into nature. Whether it’s a hike in the local forest preserve or a weekend in a far away, remote location, get out into the world.
While it’s great to experience new cultures, the idea here is to experience the wonders of Mother Nature in her glory. Be sure to turn the smartphone off for a couple of hours a day so that you don’t have any distractions.
7. Take Control of Your Thoughts
Some people struggle with a lot of negative thoughts.
It can be frustrating for people when they try desperately to think more positively and can’t. It’s okay if thinking positively doesn’t come as naturally for you as others. Like anyone else, you’ll have to train your mind to think positively. This can take a lot of work but think of this as exercising your emotions.
Lifting a heavy weight may be difficult at first, but you can accomplish it with time. After a lot of exercising, lifting that heavy weight will become easier and easier. The same concept applies to thinking positively.
The hardest part is getting yourself to think the positive thoughts, to begin with. So to start is by faking it. Now, that’s not to say you should bottle up your feelings. But, sometimes you need to give yourself a push in the right direction.
You should also have a list of things that make you happy ready at the moments you do start to feel bad.
Create a list or a special photo gallery with images if that helps. When you start to think of those things, it should help to elevate your mood. While this won’t work in every scenario, it’s a great start.
The idea here is that you start to take accountability for your own emotions. No matter what your personal situation may be, you do have at least a limited control of your emotions.
You need to do everything in your power to make yourself happy instead of passively hoping that the world will put happiness in your lap.
8. Get Creative
Painting, sculpting, writing, singing, and playing instruments are great ways to release emotion. There’s something about the arts that allow us to take our sadness and turn it into a source of inspiration.
Get creative yourself. This may feel difficult for some people who don’t have a lot of spare time. Try to go to bank practice, a painting class, or something at least once a week.
Look for options designed for people in your situation if you have trouble finding babysitters or something else is preventing you from expressing yourself.
If you fear you don’t have the talent to express yourself creatively, that’s simply not true. Everyone needs to start somewhere. Even if you are still drawing people as stick figures, you can always keep drawing until you get better.
9. Re-evaluate What Makes You Happy… And Act on It
Have you ever sat down and really thought about what makes you happy in life? Unfortunately, not many of us take the time to actually do this.
So, what makes you happy? Being successful at work? A strong familial bond? Nights out with friends?
Think about what makes you happy in the short term as well as the long term. You want to be happy now, but you can’t allow you to sacrifice your happiness for your future.
After you’ve evaluated what truly makes you happy, it’s time to look into your actions. Are your actions reflecting the things that make you happy? It might be time to make some changes in your life.
You don’t necessarily need to do anything drastic, though. If work is causing you to be unhappy, you shouldn’t quit your job right away. You’ll be much more unhappy if you aren’t able to provide for yourself in the future. Instead of quitting, get your resume out. Make some improvements and get it out to companies in your industry.
Always understand the issues first that cause you to be unhappy and then you can start taking action to make yourself happier instead of compromising your happiness in the future.
10. Talk to a Professional or Work with a Life Coach
If the sadness is getting a little more intense than you can handle, it’s time to talk to someone for help or work with a life coach who can help you reach your goals.
There are a number of signs that it’s time to turn to a professional or hiring a life coach.
A therapist can listen to your problems and help determine a course of action to make you happier. In some cases, you may have a disorder, such as depression. If you do have depression, you may find a lot of relief from some one-on-one talk therapy.
However, if you’re just lost and feeling overwhelmed with what actions you need to take first to overcome your life challenges, a life coach is a better option for you.
You may also find relief in a support group full of people who understand what you are going through.
They may end up becoming a great support system for you on your journey to happiness. In some cases, the best solution might be medication.
One of the many things that people can’t really choose when it comes to their happiness, especially when it comes to their childhood, it’s where they grew up. You can’t choose where you were born or grew up but you definitely can change everything in your life.
If there is a will, there will always a way.
Happiness is more than just a feeling. It’s a thing to aspire to, and it’s a thing to practice every day at the same time.
While immediate happiness is important, it’s also important to make decisions that will make us happy in the future. The trick to accomplishing this is to examine what makes you happy and take actions toward those sources of happiness.
Ultimately, we have to understand that a large portion of our happiness is in our control. It’s time for us to do what we can instead of waiting for happiness to come to us. I hope you will now understand what is happiness and don’t worry if yours is not the same as the person next to you.