This article was developed via a partnership with BetterHelp.
As humans, we often spend our lives chasing happiness. But what is happiness, really? When we say we’re happy, what do we mean? This article will explore the concept of happiness, why it’s important, and proven ways to obtain it in your own life.
Why Happiness Is Important
Let’s begin by talking about why happiness is important to our lives. Well, happiness has been proven to lead to positive outcomes in multiple areas of life. Not only does it increase life satisfaction overall, but it’s been shown to have benefits in many specific areas as well.
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For instance, positive feelings are linked to better health outcomes, increased longevity, and enhanced immunity. In addition, those who experience happiness are generally capable of developing stronger coping skills and emotional resources.
Positive feelings, such as happiness, also increase resilience, enabling people to better manage their stress and bounce back from life’s challenges and setbacks.
Generally, those who are happy have lower levels of cortisol, which is known as the stress hormone.
Interestingly, happy people tend to have healthy behaviours like exercising regularly and making good diet choices.
Definitions of Happiness
If you asked 1000 people to define the word “happiness,” you’d likely get 1000 different answers.
One definition of happiness is “a positive emotional experience” like pleasure, joy, ease, and contentment. Other positive emotions that are usually experienced in a social manner include compassion, connectedness, and gratitude.
Another definition splits happiness into two parts: eudaimonia and hedonic. Hedonia refers to pleasure, which tends to be more momentary and fleeting. Meanwhile, eudaimonia is referred to as the concept of thriving. Thriving typically requires sustained effort over a period of time before goals are reached.
Most people define happiness as a mixture of two things: emotional experiences that are positive, plus a deep internal sense of purpose and meaning in life.
Something important to note is that happiness is not a simple trait. It is a state of being. This means that it isn’t a permanent fixture of your personality. Instead, it’s a changeable state that can come and go and is influenced by other factors.
Some believe that happiness can be both felt and shown. Feeling happy is an internal experience while showing happiness is an external experience.
Overall, those who are happy tend to experience more positive emotions than negative emotions. Most people feel the full range of human emotions, but as long as they experience positive emotions more than negative ones, they’re considered happy.
How can you know whether you’re happy? Take a moment to think about the questions below:
- Do you feel positive more than negative?
- Are you generally satisfied with your life?
- Have you accomplished (or believe that you will accomplish) your goals in life?
If you can answer “yes” to these questions, then you’re considered a happy person. Read more articles about happiness here.
What Happiness Is Not
We’ve talked about what happiness is, but let’s also discuss what it is not.
Firstly, happiness isn’t about being wealthy or purchasing everything you desire. Although we’ll note that living below the poverty line negatively impacts happiness, an unexpected increase in the amount of money you earn (if you’re above the poverty line) generally does not increase your happiness. Instead, your expectations shift to match your new income level, and your level of happiness remains the same.
Second, happiness isn’t simply feeling good all the time. It’s hard to appreciate happiness if you have never experienced negative emotions. Think about how you’d feel if every day was a holiday. Holidays would no longer be special; they’d be just another day. Similarly, we appreciate the sun more after experiencing rain, snow, and cold weather. Experiencing the full range of emotions makes us happier than feeling good constantly.
Finally, happiness isn’t a final destination. If you constantly tell yourself things like, “I’ll be happy once I have my dream job,” or, “I’ll be happy once I get married,” it’s difficult to ever reach happiness. Instead, happiness can be found in daily life, often through small, enjoyable habits and emotions like gratitude.
Proven Ways to Find Happiness
Science suggests that happiness primarily comes from internal rather than external sources. Therefore, it’s important to focus on creating happiness within yourself by doing things like thinking positively, practising gratitude, working on your relationships with others, savouring the moment, and engaging in mindfulness.
Getting regular exercise is another proven method of boosting your mood and happiness level. Even just a few minutes of daily activity is enough to reap the benefits.
Finding a sense of purpose will result in feelings of fulfilment and happiness. When you’ve identified goals and a sense of direction for yourself, positive emotional experiences follow.
Other ways to find happiness include:
- Learning new things
- Exploring things you’re interested in
- Making time for hobbies
- Working toward goals you’ve set for yourself
If you have a tendency to think negatively, reframing your pessimistic thoughts into positive ones is an excellent way to invite more happiness into your life.