2020 has been a particularly challenging year for so many people. Our lives have been turned upside down and we’ve had to come up with entirely new ways of working through our daily lives.
If you had to name the emotions that have dominated this year, you might come up with feelings such as:
If any of those emotions resonate with you, trust me, you’re not alone. Just writing down and acknowledging those emotions makes my heart sink. The extra difficulty that comes with these feelings is how much they weigh us down. I liken them to walking through a murky bog. With each step you take, mud and water sucks your feet down, making the next step harder and sapping your energy until you can hardly move.
While it may not always feel like this, I’d like to offer some hope for better days by sharing one important truth. We all have a unique and wonderful power – the power to choose how we think and feel. The power to choose happiness.
If that statement makes you bristle a bit, know that when I mention this incredible power of choice, I don’t say it lightly. Choosing to be happy is not always as simple as it seems for many reasons and everyone’s needs and journey to that happy place are different. Going back to the emotional bog I mentioned before, for some, choosing happiness can mean that they get sucked out of the bog and fly away. For others, choosing happiness may mean having to take each excruciating step there is to reach the other side.
I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it.– Mae West
But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Before you can choose to be happy, you have to know the answer to a very important question: What exactly is happiness?
- The organization, Action for Happiness, says happiness is “the sum total of our feelings about how good our lives are, taking all things into account.”
- Positive psychologist researcher, Sonja Lyubomirsky, defines happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”
- The organization, Happiness International, says happiness is “when your life fulfills your needs” and that it’s “a feeling of contentment, that life is just as it should be.”
So…does that clarify things? Maybe not.
That’s because, at the end of the day, happiness is 100% subjective. That means, the best way to answer that question is really to flip it around and ask you – what do you think happiness is?
For me, happiness is knowing what’s important to you and living wholly within that so you feel entirely fulfilled in your body, mind, heart, and soul.
You’ll notice, all of these definitions (including probably your own) are complex. Of course, that’s because happiness is a complex concept. That’s also why it deserves an entire blog dedicated to it, not to mention countless organizations, non-profits, scientific studies, books, and entire professions.
If my definition, or some version of it, resonates with you than you probably recognize that there are several pieces of the definition that require further clarification and thought. For example:
- Most of us rarely actively define what’s important to us. If you don’t know what your values are, it’s challenging to live them.
- Even if we think we know what’s important, sometimes our perspective is clouded by family, societal, or even personal pressures.
- If we truly do understand what’s most important, conflicting obligations may still create distractions that block our path and make it difficult for us to live those values.
- If we know what’s important to us but we believe we’re lacking that or not capable of having it, that could lead in the opposite direction – to unhappiness.
That’s okay. In future posts, we’ll address those challenges along with many more topics that will get you closer to achieving true happiness. For now, the most important takeaway is that you need to understand what happiness means to you. Consider that definition your North Star.
Below are important questions that will help you gain some clarity. Answer all of them or just the ones that jump out to you.
- What does happiness mean to you?
- When have you been at your absolute happiest?
- Why did that time make you so happy?
- What would the happiest version of you think like?
- What would they look like?
- How would they spend their days?
- What themes do you notice from your answers?
Need some inspiration as you think about your personal definition of happiness? Try experimenting with emotions that oppose the list that started this post. Emotions such as:
I don’t know about you but just thinking of those emotions brings a smile to my face. What makes that smile wider is thinking about where those feelings come from. Where do they come from for you? Is it a person, certain circumstances, certain acts?
Answering those and similar questions will bring you that much closer to understanding what makes you truly happy.
I’ll let you in on a secret. It’s also entirely okay if you don’t know how to answer the questions above or if you’re unable to come up with your definition. We’ll get there. In fact, I invite you to shoot me a message if that’s the case. I’d love to hear from you and I’d love to help.
Until then or until my next post, I wish you all some truly happy moments!