What is happiness?
It wouldn’t seem that this would be a difficult question to answer, but it is possibly one of the most difficult questions there is. Everyone talks about wanting to be happy, if they are happy, who is happy, if happiness is real. But very few people actually focus on what happiness is. Happiness is one of the most basic emotions. It is an all encompassing emotion that includes many positive emotions: joy, hope, amusement, inspiration, love, serenity, gratitude. It is long lasting enjoyment of life. It is seen as the reward for being good, successful, reaching personal goals. Happiness is not a whim or temporary. It is based on thoughts and is rational. But how do we measure if we are truly happy, if we have achieved happiness? Maybe that’s part of the problem, we try too hard to measure it. We compare our lives and level of happiness to others too much. Rather than accept that we are happy, we have to prove it and that need to prove it diminishes our happiness.
What Contributes to Happiness?
There are three major factors that contribute to happiness; genetics, circumstance, and life choices. Genetics can include personality and temperament. Unfortunately, this is not an area we have much if any control over. We are born with the genes we have, but we can chose how we deal with them. Circumstance includes living situation, wealth, relationships, career, etc. This we do have control over at most points in our life. In some cases, we cannot control these, but in others it all comes down to desire and effort. If our circumstance affects our happiness negatively, we can change it. Maybe the change won’t be immediate, but it is possible. And finally, our own choices. These can be regarding circumstance as previously mentioned but also about state of mind. We can chose to be happy despite adversity or we can chose to be content with what we have and therefore happy. We can define what happiness is for ourselves and chose to be that.
Fear of happiness?
Why do some people fear happiness? It seems like a ridiculous concept to some, but to others the thought of being happy is terrifying. If you allow yourself to be happy then you are only setting yourself up for disappointment because it cannot last. Or, what if you accept this current state as happiness and you could be happier? What if you are never able to be what you consider fully happy? The fear of being happy or not being happy enough is enough to keep us from happiness. Throw in the fact that some people have been unhappy for so long, they are comfortable in this. Becoming happy is a change and change is often feared. As uncomfortable as being unhappy is, the fear of change can translate to a fear of being happy and prevent happiness.
One of the primary obstacles keeping people from being happy is that they set unrealistic expectations of happiness for themselves. It seems to be human nature to compare ourselves to others. We see other people and assume that their public presentation is all of who they are. If they are happy and enjoying that party they are at, they must be truly happy. This is only one part of the picture and you can’t possibly know the entire picture with only one piece. Not to mention, what makes one person happy can be the complete opposite of what makes another person. Some people experience happiness when surrounded by people and others while alone or with only close family. Some people enjoy many possessions and others minimal. Comparing ourselves to another person sets us up for a failure to achieve happiness. We cannot be the same as someone else, and wouldn’t be happy if we were.
Also, it is not possible to be happy 100% of the time. All people experience moments of sadness, anger, jealousy, or anxiety. Life is not a vacuum and does not allow us to be free of stressors. Expecting us to be happy all of the time puts an unnecessary pressure and actually leads to decreased happiness. Even the most positive of experiences can be side by side with negative emotions. A birth of a child can happen at about the same time as a death of a love one. It does not mean we cannot be happy about one and sad or grieving about the other. One emotion does not exclude the other. Setting realistic expectations allows us to enjoy times of happiness and actually increases the experience of it.
Is Happiness Possible?
YES! Happiness is very possible. Positive mind set, realistic expectations, courage, support, and some life changes can be made to improve happiness. If you are unable to do this on your own, there are professionals that can help through therapy. They can help you overcome the barriers to your happiness and make the changes necessary to achieve it.