Are You Happy?

What is Happy?

Over the course of the last couple of weeks, I’ve been involved in some different conversations about happiness.  What it is, how to find it, how to keep it, etc.  I would argue that if you were to ask a random sample of people what they want in life, the majority would answer “to be happy”.  But, what is happiness?  Is it the same for everyone?  Why do we place such emphasis and desire around this one emotional state when we as humans literally have hundreds or thousands of feelings.  

If y'all haven’t picked up on this yet, let me tell you….I love words.  I love reading, writing, and for some reason I love looking up definitions of words that are often used that I think I know the meaning of.  More times than not I’m surprised when I read the definition because it reveals that I’ve been giving wrong meaning to the word.  This was the case when I looked up the word “happy”.  The first definition from Webster’s Dictionary is “favored by luck or fortune”.  Based on this definition, I’ve never known what it meant to be “happy”.  I always thought happy was a feeling, an emotional response, something that I had control over.  Further down in the definitions is “enjoying or characterized by well-being and contentment”.  This is more in line with the idea of happy I had gathered.  More of a feeling or emotion, but still not exactly what I would’ve pegged as “happy”.  So, if we’re all searching for happiness, but don’t really know what it means, what does THAT mean?  

Based on the contexts I hear this word used most often, I think the general consensus is that happy means joyous, spirited, excited, energized with good vibes.  We all know that person who is always “happy”.  Never seems to be in a bad mood.  Always has something positive to say.  Wakes up with a smile on their face even BEFORE coffee! You know the one I’m talking about.  But, based on the definition I read, this isn’t the true meaning of happiness.  Contentment.  Wow, what a meaningful word.  Are you content?  This definition makes me really ponder on the happiness debate.  Being content with life is a tall order, so maybe this is what true happiness is?  Being content in all aspects of life.  Are we ever content?  In our world of goal getting and can’t stop won’t stop, can we ever be satisfied?

After several conversations and a couple of hours of internal debate, I settled on a few core ideas for my own definition of happiness.  1.  I believe happiness is an emotional state that we feel.  Just like your threshold of pain is probably different than mine, I think everyone’s sense and feeling of happiness is different.  2.  Being happy is a choice.  I create my own reality through my perception of the world.  Nothing changes in the world…only my view of it does.  3.  Happiness is one of many feelings we as humans get to experience in our time on Earth.  I spent much of my life trying NOT to feel.  Excitement, sadness, sorrow, anxious, etc. are all feelings just like happiness.  Although some feelings FEEL better than others, why try to only experience one of them?  Doesn’t the experience of a multitude of things give you a better appreciation of the others?  4.  And finally, the way I can feel happiness most often is to find gratitude.  If I can find gratitude for something(s) in my life, it seems to have a direct correlation to the amount of happiness I feel.  And happiness breeds more happiness!  Not a bad deal, huh?

Jessica Hauser