I have been thinking quite a lot about the definition of “Happiness”. What does it mean? How do I define it and/or how do others define it?
As I reflect, I see a pattern forming. I am most happy when there is a sense of calmness, being present in the moment and a state of contentment with the situation that is unfolding.
Can I maintain this state of happiness? Would I want to if I could?
If you are anything like I have been in my life, the narratives in my head used to go something like this…
“If I save enough money, work hard, put in my time at my job I will experience the freedom to be happy”.
“ I will sacrifice my time, energy and mind space now in order to build my tomorrows’ happiness.”
“ I am happy-ish, that’s good enough for now. Yes, I recognize that I am not pursuing my passions but there will be plenty of time for that later in life”.
The human condition is an interesting concept. We are bombarded with suggestions as to how to be happy. I only have to think or mention something and pretty soon commercial ads start to bombard my social media accounts and email giving me advice on how to purchase that feeling or complete that thought process. It’s almost spooky how much the algorithms are voracious in their appetite to consume us. We can buy an artificial state of euphoria anytime we choose and most of us now remain in that space 24/7.
What advice would I give my twenty year old self on happiness?
- Changing your situation does not change your ingrained habits.
- If you are looking for happiness outside yourself you are never going to find it.
- Being happy all the time, to me, is a red flag. There is a reason we are able to experience a range of emotions. The body and mind need to release these pent up feelings. Find ways to let them express themselves, whether it’s by crying, exercising, yelling on a mountain top or just talking to someone about them. Embrace the full spectrum of possibilities. It’s what makes us self aware.
- Buying things, working harder, keeping yourself occupied with projects and other people’s drama does not improve your state of happiness. It can help to distract you for a while but eventually it will catch up to you.
- Stop waiting for that “someday”. If you don’t pursue your passions now, take it from your almost 60 year self, you won’t do it later in life either.
- You will never regret the effort of the time you spend interacting with family, kids and friends.
Being happy isn’t meant to be permanent. Experiencing sadness, anger, anxiety and any other emotion is part of the package. Suppression of feelings isn’t healthy nor good for preventing wrinkles and, in my case, worry lines between my eyebrows…lol.
As I get closer to sixty I find myself just starting to understand a little about life. I have made my share of mistakes and missteps. On reflection, I think more about times I could have been more present with others who are important to me. It has taken getting older to realize how fleeting those moments can be and the impact they have on my… “pursuit of happiness”.