Forget about it, just live happily.
When anyone asks you, what do you want besides material stuff, you might just say: to be happy. Or maybe on those days when your life just feels gloomy and overwhelming you might just say loudly: but I just want to be happy! Turns out that you might be wishing for the wrong thing, you really don’t want to be happy, you want to live happily. And on the other hand, you might just pursue happiness as something tangible, and that might not work either. Because, you know, most of the times when you stalk something, you might just lose the in-betweens, and sometimes, that’s exactly where true happiness rest
Overall happiness shouldn’t be a goal per se, instead aim to create a life path full of joy.
It is not possible to be in a constant state of blissful happiness, but we also don’t need the opposite state. And sometimes that’s not easy, because our brains, due to evolution, tend to pay more attention to negative information rather than positive, creating the negative bias, as psychology names it.
Anyway, most of the things you think might make you happy, will not in fact. So, what works?
Wow, happiness is not what you think
Happiness is not just a hedonistic state of maximized emotions like if you could eat a delicious piece of chocolate, while you’re enjoying an amazing vacation in the most idyllic place and get a work raise at the same time. This is short-term happiness, it’s hedonist happiness, it comes but it usually goes away extremely fast.
Happiness is not maximum pleasure vs. pain. We need to talk about eudaimonic happiness, which is happiness related to your purpose in life. People who have their values aligned with their actions feel eudaimonic happiness: a feeling of satisfaction that will lead to happiness. This is the long-term happiness that we all should aim for. It’s all about well-being.
Don’t be too preoccupied with the feeling
Happiness as a feeling shouldn’t be pursued because it can backfire. If you become too focused on being happier you might always try to feel an emotion, and because of that if something doesn’t feel the way you imagine, it will fall short and you might feel failure.
And after all, it’s not like it makes sense to be happy all the time. For instance, if someone you loved died, or if you’re facing any kind of trauma, sorrow, and life challenges, such as a pandemic, the response to all this with happiness is not appropriate. Instead guide yourself into a state of well-being that is attainable, because bad times are part of life.
Well-being can be a life commitment, with daily habits that can help you, because well-being can be a skill instead and a hopeful view of life. Better said: well-being is a set of skills that can be learned and cultivated over time, just like learning to play a musical instrument or riding a bike.
It’s not about happiness, it’s about well-being
Well-being can be cultivated through intention and mental training.
To achieve well-being, you can divide it into 4 pillars that you can exercise: awareness, connection, insight and purpose.
People with high levels of awareness have high levels of well-being and positive emotions. It’s a feeling of attentiveness to your environment and internal cues such as bodily sensations, thoughts, and feelings. It’s like when you step outside, stare at a beautiful tree in your backyard and simply feel the morning breeze on your face and merely enjoy that feeling. Also, meditation is linked to awareness - when you meditate you are aware of what is happening in your mind. It’s easy to practice awareness. You can do it while you meditate, but also while you’re doing the most mundane things. You can do it while you commute or even just sitting on your sofa. Simply pay attention to a specific moment (no past, no future, just that moment) or take a few deep breaths for 60 seconds, and just for that time, relax and focus on your breathing and nothing else. You can repeat it throughout the day as much as you like.
Connection is about showing appreciation to the ones you love, being grateful for them in your life and being kind to others. It’s easier to focus on the differences or to make bad assumptions about a new person, instead focus on the shared characteristics. Create a habit of noticing the positive in other people. Appreciating instead of fearing.
Self-knowledge is about you. It’s about how your thoughts, your emotions, your beliefs, shape your sense of self. It’s particularly important to recognize your thoughts and question them. For instance, some anxious thoughts come from impossible expectations or self-criticism. Rigid and negative self beliefs can lead to mental disorders such as depression and anxiety. Being clear about your core values and deeper motivation and being able to apply them in your daily life is the right path to insight.
Don’t forget that self-knowledge affects how our emotions, thoughts and beliefs shape our experiences and our sense of self.
It’s about being clear about your core values and deeper motivation and being able to apply them in your daily life. It’s also about perspective: a setback can be seen as an opportunity to grow, and strengthen. A sense of purpose is even related to low mortality. Think about what really moves you? Your family, religion, charity…? There is no right answer, it can be gardening, it can be a cause.
A strong sense of purpose is aligned with values and acts that transcend you. It’s a connection to meaningful values and goals.
More money is not the same as more happiness
Money, money… It’s obvious that poverty can take a hard toll on mental health, and financial stress can also dampen any mood, and even reach a point that it might affect your physical health, creating a vicious cycle.
But there is a point where money won’t make you happy. Research shows that there is a point above which more money won’t have much of an impact. It may even decrease your levels of happiness. And why? Because this kind of happiness is a eudaimonic one, and it doesn’t last long. We also tend to compare what we earn to our peers, and not to others that have less than us, so there is always an empty sensation of not having enough.
How you think, will make you happy or not. Happiness is all about awareness, gratitude, and doing what really brings you a sense of well-being. So don’t worry, be happy : )