For some people, finding true happiness is one of their main goals in life – and really, who would blame them? Being happy is an elusive feeling that so many of us struggle with, especially over the past few years. But actually being happy is very different from putting on a happy face or being positive all the time, regardless of what is going on in life. People who ‘act happy’ tend to be avoidant of uncomfortable feelings, so they push on as if nothing really affects them – but this definitely isn’t real happiness. It would seem that discovering the secret to true happiness would help a lot of people, and potentially make the world a better place – right?
Sure, but let’s be real – there is no such thing as a secret to true happiness. In fact, happiness is not something that can be bought or achieved in itself – rather it is a state of being that comes from certain life experiences. Happiness, by definition, is linked with concepts such as quality of life, subjective wellbeing and life satisfaction – that is, happiness is an evaluation of one’s life experiences based on individual factors (Medvedev & Landhuis, 2018). A difference between feeling and being happy has also been suggested, which distinguishes between momentary feelings of pleasure or joy and an enduring state of being (Medvedev & Landhuis, 2018). Although many people think that the absence of certain negative emotional states, such as depression or distress, equals happiness, research has shown that this is not necessarily the case (Steptoe, 2019). Often we can be neither in distress, nor happy, but rather in a neutral state of emotion, and so we must look at many different factors in determining true happiness.
Unfortunately, measuring happiness has proven to be quite a troublesome task, especially given it is such a personal and intuitive experience. This makes it even more difficult to prescribe how to achieve happiness, because there really isn’t just one clear answer. Every person on this earth is completely unique, so what makes one person happy won’t necessarily work for another. And (weirdly enough) this is part of the journey to finding happiness in yourself – acknowledging that there’s no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to feeling happy, and instead discovering what works for you. Whilst there is certainly no precise way to go about this, we’ve made a short list of some of the things to consider below.
The act of paying attention to your everyday activities with an attitude of curiosity and acceptance – this enables you to not get caught up in negative thoughts and feelings and be more open to experience.
Spend time with people who make you feel good
The people around you, their moods, actions and belief systems, will inevitably have some kind of impact on you – you get to choose what type of impact that is by surrounding yourself with people who bring positive energy and lift you up.
Taking the time to appreciate things in your life that bring joy, pleasure and meaning can boost feelings of happiness by getting you to focus on the good in your life, rather than the bad.
Make decisions guided by your values
Understanding what is most important to you (ie your values) helps you to make purposeful action towards things of worth in your life. In turn, this should make you feel happier as you are living congruently with those things that you value the most.
Do something about the things you can change
While there’s plenty of things in life we have no control over, there’s also plenty of things we can work to change – and you get to choose whether you focus on these or not. When you notice something isn’t working for you anymore, assess whether you have the power to change anything, and when you do – change it!
Whatever happiness means to you is what you should strive for – not some definition pushed onto you by society of what it ‘looks like’ to be happy. But figuring out what actually brings you happiness can be a task that requires insightful self-reflection and willingness to change the way you do things – so start small, and pay more attention to the things that make you feel lighter, more confident and joyful in everyday life.
Medvedev, O. N., & Landhuis, C. E. (2018). Exploring constructs of well-being, happiness and quality of life. PeerJ, 6, e4903.
Steptoe, A. (2019). Happiness and health. Annual review of public health, 40, 339-359.