What is happiness?
“A table, a chair a bowl of fruit and a violin; what else does a man need to make him happy?” Albert Einstein
What is happiness? If you asked 1000 different people that question, would there be any common threads, a secret formula or magic recipe? Answers, I’m sure would greatly vary depending on who you asked. Many factors will influence a someone’s perception of happiness. Unfortunately, for some people, “survival” on many different levels, has to be their number one priority. Unless we have walked in their shoes, we cannot know what that feels like.
Is living “happily ever after,” the stuff of fairy tales?
Is being “happy” even something everyone strives for? Are people aware of what makes them happy, or is thinking about happiness put on hold until everything else on the list is done? Is “happiness” attainable, achievable or desirable for most people? Is living “happily ever after,” the stuff of fairy tales?
When I worked in education, I remember talking with a child psychologist. Something she said has stuck in my mind. She asked, “What is it you want for Jack.” (A vulnerable, traumatised 6 year old) Perhaps rather naively, I’d answered that initially, I wanted him to feel safe & happy. “Happiness,” she replied, “is up here,” raising her hand in the air. She thought any expectation around Jack being “happy,” was unrealistic and that “contentment” was something she hoped we could work towards… Was she right? Perhaps I was projecting something that I feel is important… or maybe it was something Jack valued too.
If it was up to me, I would want everyone to feel moments or periods of “happiness” in their lives, in whatever way, shape or form that takes. Occasions when being alive means something. Experiencing love, joy, pleasure, pride, excitement, peace, fulfilment or other positive emotions that contribute to a sense of well being. That there is “a point” or reason for being here…
“Happiness is not a goal… it is a product of a life well lived.” Eleanor Roosevelt
So, I think, in my mind, I’ve established that “happiness” is quite a personal thing. But actually, I do believe, for lots of people, it’s a desirable state of being and something they might want for themselves and others. Is actively pursuing “happiness,” creating time & opportunities to feel “happy” and recognising those things that bring you pleasure important to you? It is to me, as is acknowledging unexpected, spontaneous moments of joy. On our 3rd wedding anniversary, a shooting star shot across the sky, in true Disney fashion, with an audible “swoosh…” A “perfect” moment in time, as I stood, in silence, with my arms wrapped around my wife. An unplanned moment, unlikely to be recreated.
To follow are some suggestions and ideas, with a few quotes thrown in, which may be helpful to anyone who feels they want to think about how they can bring more joy and happiness into their own and the lives or others.
“If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.” Roald Dahl
Positivity, optimism and looking on the bright side of a situation is important when it comes to feeling happy. What in your life, do you feel pleased about and grateful for? At times, for lots of people, I’m sure the answer “nothing” springs to mind and often justifiably. Whilst we may not always be or feel in control of certain aspects of our lives, for the majority of us, our mind is our own and a place we can create a space to “just be.”
Mindfulness and meditation could help you achieve a feeling of inner peace, similarly, yoga, tai chi or relaxation techniques may help. Being able to still your mind, ignore passing thoughts and any bothersome brain “banter” is something that requires practice and patience. I know developing this technique allows people to find peace in their mind, whenever they need to. This is a skill I hope to learn myself.
“Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.” Dalai Lama
What is it that you like to do, that makes you happy? Perhaps you haven’t considered the answer to this question for a while. Often our busy lives lead us to forget about the little things we used to do that gave us pleasure and made us feel happy.
You might enjoy… being creative; drawing, painting or making something. Scrapbooking, handmade cards, knitting, embroidery or quilting. Soap making, cake decorating or trying your hand at truffles or chocolate making. You may enjoy sharing your creations with other people or making them as special gifts. There is something lovely about receiving a “handmade” gift. I treasure “Jemima” my 40-year-old rag doll, made for me with love, by my mum and every one of my handmade cards from my wife.
“Keep smiling because life is a beautiful thing and there is so much to smile about.” Marilyn Monroe
Lots of people remember being happy as a child. For some the memories of being carefree, for others, less or no responsibilities. Hopefully, someone else took care of “adult” things and you were able to get on with the business of friends and play. When did you last play a game with your friends? Letting your hair down and having a good laugh is really important. Ride your bike along a prom, put on your roller skates, go to a swing park, dance in your living room naked… (perhaps draw the curtains first – or not!) Try being just a little bit adventurous, wherever you are with whatever you’ve got. Get smiling and feel happier!
“There are always flowers for those who want to see them.” Henri Matisse
Consider taking some time out to appreciate nature and open spaces. Look up at the sky, across the hills or out to sea. When was the last time you planned a half/full day “daycation?” Plan an opportunity to get away from it all, do and be somewhere different, breathe fresh clean air and feel exhilarated. Often a change is as good as a rest!
“To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.” Bertrand Russell
How true…. many people see associate being happy with everything being “perfect.”
In recent years I’ve really noticed an increase in the use of the word “perfect,” to describe things. Often we wait for the “perfect moment,” or “perfect time” to do something. Unless everything is “spot on,” and “all the boxes are ticked,” – something may be perceived as not good enough – but how realistic is this?
“The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance, the wise grows it under his feet.” James Oppenheim
Celebrate every small win and achievement and look for opportunities to rejoice in good news. Keep a gratitude journal, write a list of your achievements to date and instead of thinking I’ll be happy when…. consider what you are happy with right now. Look at how far you have come, not how far there is to go.
“Happiness is not a state to arrive at, but a manner of travelling.” Margaret Lee Runbeck
Do you enjoy spending quality time with your friends and family? Does learning something new float your boat? Perhaps you are the happiest gardening, getting stuck into a DIY task or project. Maybe being part of an orchestra, band or theatre company or sharing ideas in a book club is your thing. Do you love watching a movie, musical, play or band? Are you sporty, competitive, love travelling or making a home? Are you inspired by art? Does history fascinate you or ghosts or UFO’s? Do you love taking photographs, ballroom dancing, playing bridge, chess or solving a murder mystery?
We all enjoy different things, that’s the beauty of being human. Whether on your own, with a few like-minded people or a whole crowd of spectators, prioritise making time to do the things you love to do, the stuff that makes you happy, the things that make your life worthwhile. You may be someone’s child, parent, spouse, lover, friend, employee or boss but as Oscar Wilde so eloquently put it,
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
Make time to do the things you are passionate about, those things that bring your pleasure, joy and happiness…
And to conclude, from a lady I have high hopes for as the next President of America,
“Every day brings a chance for you to draw in a breath, kick off your shoes…and dance.” Oprah Winfrey.
Thank you for reading, if you like quotes check out our post on Confucius, a famous Chinese philosopher.