This article is part of a series of articles unpacking different emotions. It is inspired by Andrew Fuller’s book, ‘A to Z of Feelings’.
Happiness is alignment with the present moment. We shouldn’t seek happiness, it is unreliable. It comes and goes. As soon as some of our needs are met, we immediately start wishing for more. Happiness is the byproduct of a meaningful pursuit, a challenge that occupies the mind. A moment where we say “where did the time go!”.
Most of us believe happiness comes from a relaxing moment by the pool with nothing to do. However, our happiest moments are often when we are engaged in a mindful challenge. A challenge not too great to cause anxiety and not too easy to cause boredom. Sport, games, socialising, drawing, art, music, dancing or even work. It typically involves setting your own personal goal and your own reward.
A note on pursuing happiness. The Ancient Greeks did not believe that the purpose of life was to be happy: they believed in ‘Eudaimonia’, a word which has been best translated as ‘fulfilment’. What separates happiness from fulfilment is pain. It is possible to be fulfilled and, at the same time, under pressure, irritable and suffering. The word happiness doesn’t capture this possibility, we can not seemingly be happy yet unhappy or happy yet sad. Fulfilment is flexible enough to accommodate this.
Striving for fulfilment is to trust that what is worthwhile won’t always be easy but, in the end, it will be worth it. Building a business, developing your career, maintaining a relationship. These pursuits can leave us feeling exhausted, they can push us to the edge, disappoint us and hurt us. Despite this, we will reflect on them and still feel that they were worthwhile pursuits. While they may not provide us with never ending happiness, they will grant us access to something more meaningful than happiness: we’ll have made a difference.
We lose ourselves in the moment and feel ecstatic. We inhabit the present moment. Feeling happy is associated with, but not necessarily caused by, the release of dopamine and serotonin, two types of neurotransmitters in the brain.
Achievement, optimism, hopeful, pride, excitement, wonder, enthusiastic, adventurous, engaged, motivated, fulfilled, love
What you can do that helps
While happiness may be unreliable, there are ways to increase your chances of creating happiness:
Don’t wait for it: Instead of going to places and seeing if it is fun, decide in advance to have fun regardless of the circumstances. Enjoy the day regardless of the weather. Make the most of the occasion regardless of the company.
Go outside and play: Play more. Go for walks, throw a dog a stick, skip, sing loudly or imagine yourself to be a spy passing through enemy territory. Whatever does it for you. Make a promise to play more. This rule applies for any age group.
Develop deep friendships: Your friends are your true wealth, Value them and see them regularly, Let them know how important they are to you. Most people only have two close friends so don’t fool yourself into believing you are less popular than most people.
Laugh a lot more: Find people, shows, books, films and situations that make you laugh and surround yourself with them.
Next time you feel a sense of happiness, you should reflect on it by asking yourself, how did I make that happen?
Wishing you well on your wellbeing journey!