In my last post I talked about what it means to be a good person. Now, I want to give my thoughts on what it means to be happy.
For starters, I wish the world would stop thinking that you have to be smiling all the time to be enjoying life. I’m a person who is often in la-la land, lost in my own thoughts, dreaming up the story line to my next book, or planning my next big trip. I’m not thinking about the expression on my face that I’m sending out to the general public when I’m calculating how I’m going to take six trips a year on a teacher’s salary. Don’t expect me to have a supermodel pout when I’m deciding what real human being I’m going to disguise as a character in next year’s book release then kill them off. I can’t count the amount of times that people have come up to me and asked, “Hey, are you okay? You look really unhappy.” Oh good, my next literary victim!
Here are some valid questions:
What exactly is happiness?
Are people born happy or do they get that way over time?
Are there different types of happiness?
How do you get happy if you’re not?
I’m inclined to start with the third question, because the answer I have in mind will help with the other questions, too.
Are there different types of happiness? I think so, and my thought is that there are two kinds. One, is the deep seated type that is inside and can withstand just about anything you throw at it, and the other is the temporary kind that is brought on by an event, or another person, or something else on the outside. I find that this kind of happiness is fleeting. The first kind is the one that’s really hard to achieve, and with all my heart I believe that there’s only one person who can make it happen: YOU! The second can be achieved from just about anything positive that happens, and is sometimes unexpected.
“He makes me so happy!” “She makes me smile.” We hear these things on a daily basis. And they have some basis in reality. One person can make another person happy very easily. Smiles aren’t that hard to come by, whether they’re genuine or not. But the same person or event can turn that smile to tears. That’s why we have to be careful about counting on others for our happiness. Because once that person, place, or thing is removed we run the risk of being devastated. If you have that first kind of happiness in place you may just be able to bounce back from life-altering events easier.
Which brings me back to the other questions.
What exactly is happiness? Webster’s defines it as “a state of well-being and contentment.” This is a perfect definition. Notice that we aren’t talking about “joy” or “elation.” That’s not what real happiness feels like. That’s the other, temporary kind. The big kahuna of happiness is a lot calmer than elation or joy. It’s a feeling of comfort in your own skin. That no matter how bad things get you can find a rainbow, however tiny. That even if you’re struggling you know it will come back. What it doesn’t mean is a permanent smile or bounce in your step. Frankly, I don’t trust people that smile too much. Is it just me?
To say that people are born happy might be a bit of a stretch. We may like to assume that if someone is born with the proverbial silver spoon in his or her mouth that they must be happy. However, I strongly believe that money does not equal happiness. I read an interesting article years back in which a study was done to try and prove how much money someone had to have to be happy. The number was surprisingly low, in fact, below six figures, and there was some proof that an individual’s life doesn’t get that much better once the threshold is exceeded. The money factor aside, I believe that real happiness takes work, and it also takes maturity, so my thought is that people are not born happy, but may be more inclined toward happiness based on life experiences.
Finally, how do you get happy if you’re not? The over-simplified answer to this would be to say that you should do things you love as much as you can. That’s definitely part of it, but I believe the best and most important thing you can do is alter the way you THINK. If you spend all your time dwelling on things you cannot change, like the past, or thinking unpleasant thoughts about yourself and/or others, or comparing yourself to Kylie Jenner or The Rock, you’re in for a heck of a lot of unhappiness. Thinking realistically is a big part of lasting contentment, too, as is accepting that some people have what you want and you don’t. You have to be able to live with that, without jealousy or resentment. The green-eyed monster never made anyone happy. Never mind them. Live and let live. Find your own comfort zone and let them have theirs.
Here’s the good news: you can have both kinds of happiness! Imagine being in “a state of contentment” and having those times of temporary happiness, too. It’s the best you can ask for.
Aspire to it.