When you think of happiness, what do you imagine? Maybe a warm smile comes to your face thinking about your loved ones, a nice walk outdoors, a funny moment, or your favorite food. Happiness comes from an all around “good vibes” feeling on the inside and out. It’s hard to define but we know it when we feel it.
But what is happiness? We thought we’d tackle the definition of happiness since one of our favorite days is coming up on March 20: International Happiness Day
Think about it. When we’re asked if we are happy, many of us would instantly say yes – or no. However, when we’re asked what would make us happy, it may not be subtle moments like shared smiles and breathing fresh air. Often we seek happiness in the form of our goals being met, achieving something, reaffirming ourselves, or getting rewarded. We tend to look outward for a happiness fix.
What is it about happiness that makes us feel like we need to strive for and feel it all the time?
Researchers that have sought to define happiness have come up with the definition “subjective well-being.” Many studies have tried to understand the nature of happiness, including the ups and downs of living. Guess what? Happiness may be elusive. There seem to be many (sometimes contradicting!) factors on what makes people happy.
There is research to back up happiness as something we cannot experience every second of the day. Even so, we expect it. Today it’s easier to believe that if we’re not happy, then we’re sad; and being sad is bad. In fact, being aware of a range of feelings and responding to them in healthy ways are signs of a well-adjusted, happy person. Some refer to this as “emodiversity!”
Positive psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky wrote in her book, The How of Happiness, that happiness is:
“The experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”
That also means experiencing things like failure, grief and frustration. So maybe it’s time to rethink happiness. Of course, we can be happy by achieving our goals and satisfying our needs (“I’ll be happy once I get this or do that.” ) But, these factors don’t necessarily lead us to living a meaningful life. The secret sauce to being happy may simply mean to not focus on outcomes — and instead be more invested in the experience of the moment.
Yes, it may be all about the journey rather the the destination.
How does one start?
Through a shift in mindset and mindfulness practices we can teach ourselves that it is necessary to embrace all of our emotions as human beings. We do know that happiness improves our lives by helping our health, positive relationships, productivity, generosity, ability to cope, and creativity.
Here are 5 things to get you started right now!
- Schedule a daily “positive experience” in your busy calendar that is just about plain old fun.
- Add similing to your daily exercise routine. The smile facial muscles tap your neural networking and trigger your body’s feel good endorphins. And smiles are contagious!
- Do something kind for someone else with no expectation of return.
- Be kind toward yourself, too. When you realize you are beating yourself up or comparing yourself to others, redirect your attention to the present moment without judging.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Notice what went well and why. It’s too easy to forget the positives so mark them down!
Check out International Happiness Day activities, too! Tell a friend! After all happiness is contagious.
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