For me, happiness is a habit to be learned, an inner state to be actively cultivated. Actually ‘happiness’ is a loaded word for me. I prefer to think of contentment. Happiness sounds too grand and flowery, like something out of the movies, not real life.
For a long time I think I was under the impression that happiness meant that everything in your life was perfect. You had the right job, a comfortable amount of money, friends, a partner etc etc. So naturally, happiness felt like an elusive concept. Or like somehow I was doing it ‘wrong.’ Now I realize that perfection is not the goal, or the point. In fact if you stop looking for everything to be perfect I think you will find more contentment – a general ‘ok-ness’ with the way things are.
I think that everyone has a different baseline for what happiness means and feels like for them. I think we have a natural pre-disposition to a certain level of happiness, or lack thereof, which constitutes a comfort zone, regardless of whether or not we’re truly happy. As with many other personality traits, this is probably mostly conditioned by family, society etc. This is not to forego responsibility, but more to realize that our default mood or level of happiness is not intrinsic to our nature, but just like anything else, we can work with what we’ve been given. Like other of our thought patterns, I think happiness must be cultivated and practiced.
What does happiness feel like?
For me this is a chicken/egg scenario. When I’m more content I have less negative thoughts and judgments. When I have less negative thoughts the world seems a little better, brighter, kinder, lighter. Is the contentment causing the change in thought patterns, or vice versa? I can’t say, but I know that when these moments happen I know that nothing in reality has actually changed – only my outlook has changed. I like to refer to this as feeling moments of happiness for no particular reason. If you are struggling with being happy, liberating yourself from the notion that things in your life must be a certain way for you to be happy, is perhaps the biggest step to take.
Let me know in the comments what happiness means to you? Are you happy? Does it come naturally or is it a learned habit?