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Mar 6, 2023

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What Is Happiness?


What is happiness?  


Oof, big question!


What is this big thing that so many of us spend our lives trying to find?


Do you actually know specifically?


How will you know when you have it?


What happiness looks and feels like will vary from one person to another, yet we all feel like we’re chasing the same thing.


It can feel pretty elusive and hard to nail down.


I could ask 500 of you what happiness meant to you and end up with 500 different answers!


It’s another part of our collective human experience that we may have never even thought to question or dig into.


Like so many things. We walk around on auto pilot making assumptions based on our own maps of the world and think that everyone else thinks the same as us, or should think the same as us.


But sometimes even that part isn’t clear. What do we REALLY think?


This is why I love digging into our own psyches. It’s SO fascinating when you really look into the things we believe, think and feel. It’s so subjective and can often be changed simply by daring to look a little closer and pick apart our unconscious programming and natural learned protection mechanisms.


It’s also entirely likely that me asking you this question today, and in 10 years time, and 10 years ago, would have completely different answers.


And yet we can feel like we’re chasing this elusive happiness without realising we might already have it.


It comes down to perspective again. You might have something big going on that isn’t ideal, but could you still be happy underneath it all?


Can you have that not ideal thing going on and not judge it or transpose it over to all other areas of your life and still be able to say you’re happy?


To some people happiness might be joy, elation, laughter. 


To some it might look and feel like peace and contentment.


To some people it might be love and connection.


To some people it might look like passion and purpose.


To some it might be high levels of self esteem and pride.


To some it might look and feel simply like acceptance.


So what is it?


Is happiness something that it’s realistic to expect to feel all the time?


Is happiness a fleeting feeling or a more general state?


Is it a passive or active state?  Meaning, do you have a responsibility in it or is it just something that happens to you?


I often love doing a little deep dive into what certain emotions and feelings really look like for me.  Without society's opinions and the opinions of other people. 


Really allowing myself to dig in and essentially create a map of that emotion according to me.


I often find some surprises in there.


What words do I associate with it?  


What feelings do I associate with it?


Where do I feel it in my body and what does it specifically feel like?


How much can I name about this emotion and its qualities?


It creates some next level self awareness and real clarity over what you want and how you are going to achieve it. 


The kind of awareness that most people simply don’t get to without the desire to what I call ‘seek to understand’. I mean that in the context of self, others, society and the world.


The more you can question, be curious and understand yourself, other people, society and the world the more sense everything makes. 


I find mapping out an emotional state can also give me more of a map on how to reach it too.


It takes away any judgement around perhaps not having it, or having it if it’s something like anxiety for example, and replaces it with curiosity.


When your filters are clouded by other people’s and societies and cultural filters it’s usually very difficult to really find what you’re looking for.


The waters are a little muddy.


It can be clouded by what we think it ‘should’ or is ‘supposed’ to look like.


There’s so much nuance to the human condition, to our feelings, our thoughts, our behaviours and it’s easy to assume we’re all singing from the same hymn sheet but in reality we simply aren’t.


Our own experiences throughout our lives, particularly before we’re 8 years old have shaped a lot of our expectations. 


I mean let’s be honest, Disney and romcoms have a LOT to answer for here too!


Do you know what makes you happy?


Is that different to what brings you joy?


Joy tends to be fleeting and happiness more long lasting.


Let’s look at this a different way. Do you know specifically what STOPS your happiness or interferes with it?


Do you feel like other people or external things are required for you to be able to feel it?


The reality is there is no one universally agreed upon definition of happiness.


Different cultures have different words and expectations when it comes to happiness. 


If you compare America to Japan for example, happiness looks very very different. 


In America happiness is seen as more joyful, energetic and in Japan it’s more calm and serene. 


So many people, when you ask what’s important to them and what do they want for their lives, will say happiness or to be happy. 


So I believe it’s really important to define what that is for ourselves.


And to make sure we’re super clear on the things that do make us happy so we can do more of that.


Emotions are and will always be transient. They’re moveable. You’re not meant to feel just one thing all the time.


The way I see happiness is that the underlying feeling of contentment and peace can still be there, even when things are a little more rocky.


It’s a sense of solidity. 


A sense of groundedness. 


A sense that everything is always going to turn out ok.


A sense of calm and balance in my nervous system. 


That feeling of being able to do a big deep sigh and feel like all is well.  Even if it’s not 100% true at that moment. 


A sense of satisfaction and optimism.


So you can see, I really don’t think happiness is one thing. I think it’s a combination of lots of things. 


So what is happiness?  


Happiness is entirely subjective and exactly what you decide it to be.  And it might be closer than you have allowed yourself to realise.