Happiness: we all want it, strive for it, and believe it is essential for a good life. If I asked you to describe what happiness is, what would you say? The problem is that most people do not individualize the meaning of happiness for their own lives.
Is it something tangible like having money, a healthy relationship, a great job? Is it something abstract like pleasure, peace, comfort? Happiness is unique to each person, rather than a generally agreed upon definition. When you can define your happy state of mind, you can channel it, and use it to your advantage.
The first question is asking yourself "what does happiness look like in my life?" Focusing on the things that bring pleasure, meaning, and fulfillment to your life will help you define your happy state of mind. Forget what happiness looks like to others, what society tells us happiness is, and any "shoulds" you have in your mind. By defining happiness in your own terms, you allow it to be a more naturally occurring emotion and state of being.
Some common areas to begin evaluating while you are searching for your happy are:
- Personal life
- Professional life
- Social life
- Physical health and wellness
- Intimate relationships
- Family relationships
- Hobbies and activities
Maybe your happy state of mind is created by connecting with loved ones frequently, having downtime with your spouse, being outside and moving, challenging yourself with physical activities, being creative, and working in a field that gives back to others (or maybe I just described myself!). Once you have your working definition of happiness, use that information to create more happiness in your day to day routine. Happiness becomes something that you can create and appreciate rather than something you are simply working towards.
The next question to ask yourself is "what is a barrier to my happiness right now?" I hear too many people say "I'll be happy when: I have more money/I get married/I get promoted" placing the happiness in external factors rather than in your own, very capable hands. The issue with this is that it leaves us waiting to be happy. Maybe it is true that you will feel more fulfilled with a promotion/marriage/money. But why put off being happy until those things come? What if happiness occurred throughout the journey rather than only at the destination? When you are able to identify the barriers to your current happiness (feeling stuck at work, poor communication in relationships, not feeling challenged, etc.) come up with a game plan to make changes and get to your happy place.
The most important thing to remember when finding your happy is to strive for balance. Understand that happiness is not a constant state of mind--that is unrealistic. When you tell yourself that you "should" be happy all the time, you set yourself up for an unrealistic expectation and inevitable failure. Those people that seem happy all the time? They are not living in some perfect, stress-free alternate universe. Chances are they are choosing to adapt and cope with 'downs' as they come and enjoying the 'ups' more. It is unlikely that every single area of importance in your life will be at peak happiness levels all the time. That is okay! When things are rough in one area of your life, create happiness in other areas to balance it out. Once you begin thinking of happiness as something you can choose and create in your life, the balance becomes a lot easier.