What is happiness? How do we find it or create it? Is it sustainable or fluid and ever-changing?
The Oxford English dictionary defines happiness like this:
The quality or condition of being happy.
1a. Good fortune or good luck in life generally or in a particular affair; success, prosperity. Now rare.
“Now rare”—isn’t that an odd statement? Why is happiness “rare” in today’s world?
We are quickly approaching the end of the pandemic and a lot of things are going to change over the next year as we navigate a new “normal.” Many of us have had our entire lives flipped upside down in one way or another. Recently, I’ve been reflecting on my happiness and what I really want out of life.
Happiness is something that eluded me for a large portion of my life. I was so used to everything being shrouded in darkness that I let the dark become my comfort zone. I was afraid to allow myself to be happy.
It seemed like every time I got excited about one thing, something else in my life would unravel. I learned to prepare myself for disappointment and stopped letting myself experience joy. My heart breaks for the girl I used to be as that is an incredibly sad way to live.
When we are in survival mode, we become who we have to be, but that isn’t who we are meant to be.
We all do what we have to do in order to get through trauma, but once we emerge from life’s harsh lessons, we have to find the courage to step into the stronger, wiser version of ourselves. If we embrace our vulnerability, we will discover that it is our greatest form of strength.
When I look back on all the obstacles I have overcome, I can see them for what they really were: opportunities for growth. Everything that has occurred in my life helped shape me into who I am now, even the truly horrible experiences—especially those.
It is always up to us what we take from those situations. I chose to embrace the inner strength I found in those moments and step into my power as a survivor. A warrior who fought the way forward even when the path was unclear.
It seems people are constantly in search of experiences and possessions to fill the void in their hearts, but love and happiness cannot be found in material objects. It’s easy to get caught up in the rat race and think that a promotion, vacation, or another status symbol will provide a sense of worthiness—always chasing the next big thing that’s going to make us “happy.”
Too often people fail to realize that happiness might not be found in the next job, relationship, or city and are confused by the lack of emotion felt once they get where they thought they wanted to go.
That being said, our circumstances do prevent happiness at times.
A flower can’t grow if its roots are being poisoned.
Sometimes, it is our job or relationship that is suffocating us and causing unhappiness.
Feeling stuck in an unhappy relationship myself once taught me that even the brightest of days can’t fill my heart with warmth if I feel cold, desolate, and oppressed on the inside. It is important to know when to walk away from anything that makes us feel like we’re abandoning ourselves.
I have found myself living the wrong life before but was brave enough to start all over—after all, it might be the only one we get.
True happiness isn’t something found outside of ourselves. It can only be created in our own minds. If we love ourselves and are happy with who we are, we won’t care as much about what other people think of us. That is where we find the freedom to truly enjoy our own lives.
Happiness is an attitude, a mindset. We get to choose whether we want to focus on all the things that might be missing or be grateful for what we have. When we focus on our blessings, we attract more of them into our lives.
I’ve noticed that some of the happiest people seem to have less “stuff.” Those people have discovered a great secret. They’ve learned to experience joy in its simplest form by appreciating what they have, instead of comparing their lives to others and allowing themselves to get caught up in the endless competition.
A friend of mine once spoke to a homeless man who chose that lifestyle. He had money in the bank and my friend was confused. He asked this man why he chose to live that way, and his answer was simple, “Because I want to live.”
For him, his personal happiness meant not being bound by the constructs of society and living freely by his own rules. That was what bought him joy.
Happiness isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of thing; it looks different for everyone.
When I find myself spiraling, I stop and take a breath to appreciate the current moment. When we really look, there is so much beauty in the world—so much to be thankful for, and an awful lot of joy to experience. I pause to focus on the blessings around me and try to let go of what I think I need to achieve or possess in order to be happy.
I’m not saying we should give up on our dreams or stop going after our goals, but we should try to enjoy the ride more. This is the fun part! Joy is found in the process of finding our own personal peace. If we embrace where we are while reaching for more, we can relax, exhale, and realize that life is good—just as it is.
Being alive is a simple joy; if we start each day with gratitude for life, maybe we will live a little differently.
I know there are times when this can be hard, where one thing after another seems to go wrong and we find ourselves lost in the dark, unsure of where to turn. It’s during those times that we need to cherish everything in our lives even more. If we hold onto those lifelines with everything we’ve got, they will carry us through until the clouds clear and the light shines again.
Life is made up of magical moments, terrible tragedies, and a whole lot of mundane days in between. And it is often the worst days that completely change our direction and set us on the path for the best things that ever happen to us.
When I attempt to find meaning in the chaos, I can often uncover the lessons hidden in adversity. Challenges can be the exact stepping-stones we need to pave the way forward.
Everything is connected in a mysterious way that only makes sense when we look back in retrospect.
The happiest people I know seem to focus on the magic that surrounds them and do more of what makes them come alive—savoring every delectable moment that they can.
If we learn to live more authentically for ourselves, doing what sparks joy within our own souls rather than trying to live up to someone else’s vision of what “happiness” looks like, we will live fuller, more meaningful lives.