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Happiness: The Thing We All Look For But Never Really Understand

Happiness: The Thing We All Look For But Never Really Understand

As emotional beings, it can sometimes be difficult to accurately define a feeling. So much can get lost in translation and leaves something to be desired. Perhaps that’s a part of the reason that so many people have trouble achieving happiness. At times it just seems so elusive and complex. I mean, what is happiness really? Are you only truly happy if you only experience that emotion, and that one alone?

Definition of happiness by different philosophers share the same theory.

There are many ideologies with their own philosophies on how to achieve happiness. For example, the Buddhists believe that happiness can only be achieved when you have rejected all need for material goods, reaching what they call Nirvana.[1] Taoists attain happiness by living simple, uncomplicated lives; appreciating what is, and accepting what is not.[2]

What these two theories have in common is the rejection of longing. You can’t be truly happy when you focus on what you do not have.

But what we believe is true about happiness has been hindering us from pursuing true happiness.

Myth 1: Happiness is a constant state.

If you think that you need to be happy 24/7 to be a happy person, that just simply isn’t true. Everyone gets stressed, everyone gets angry. We are capable of an array of emotions for a reason, to feel them. To be a happy individual, you have to know how to reel yourself back and not allow the other emotions to consume you. Take the Taoist approach here: appreciate what is, and accept what is not.

Myth 2: Money can buy happiness.

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Before I get all preachy again, I’ll admit that I’m guilty of shop therapy. Getting something new and exciting, and fulfilling for the moment can be nearly euphoric. Especially when it’s something that you’ve been pining over, worked for, and are finally able to make that purchase and make it yours. But more likely than not, that new exciting object will become an old, forgotten thing of the past. Like a temporary high, it will cease to satisfy you. Here I am going to ask you to take the Buddhist approach: do not rely on material objects to bring you happiness.

Myth 3: Destination: Happiness.

“I’ll be happy when___”, “Things will get better when____”, does this sound like you? Happiness is not a destination. A new place, a new job, a new hobby will not completely alter your life, filling your soul with rainbows and sunshine. I mean, it certainly can help, and changing your circumstance is the first step towards achieving happiness. As it was once so eloquently stated by Jon Kabat-Zinn, writer and philosopher, “Wherever you go, there you are.” Happiness lies within yourself. Changing your circumstance isn’t enough, you must change yourself as well.

Success and happiness don’t need to be enemies.

To some, happiness is an idealistic fantasy; a hindering roadblock for a successful life. Well, hey now, what is success? When do you feel truly successful? Couldn’t success be defined as achieving your desired lifestyle and therefore achieving happiness? For some yes, for others it is a resounding no.

Many business tycoons have put happiness on the back-burner, sacrificing everything that gives their life meaning in order to grow their business, their empire, and most importantly, their bank account. The need to succeed monopolizes every other aspect of life with soul crushing force, leaving little room for luxuries like joy and bliss.

Although this isn’t the case for all workaholics. For them, working endlessly, building their dream, and growing their net worth is exactly what gives their life meaning. The key is finding a balance and learning how to prioritize the little things that make their heart sing, and including them into their daily routines.

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Start with your smallest lifestyle change, and prioritize happiness.

Yes, that’s all you need to do!

There is a new trend in the workforce where primarily millennials are finding ways to pursue their passions, and building their empires by nurturing their interests. Many baby boomers sneer at this lifestyle, mostly out of resentment for not having the same opportunities; or the courage to do so.

Some people, specifically myself, cannot trudge through life mindlessly doing what is expected to fulfill my obligations. What is expected? Accept your life for the monotonous conveyor of: heinous commute, work at a job you hate, pay for the house in the town you want to leave, fantasize about the life you wish you had, cry yourself to sleep, wake up, repeat. Perhaps I’m being a bit dramatic but too many people have accepted this way of life, and I’ll tell you what, they are not happy.

They’re leaving out one very important ingredient, themselves. They let the light die out in their soul, they’ve forgotten their passions. They’ve let go of those important elements of life that make them think “THIS is the reason I’m alive!” When very simply, if they included one little ritual daily, or even weekly, setting aside time for what interests them, they can find that oasis of contentment and happiness that has been missing.

This is where things can get tricky. Because pursuing happiness can be exhausting when approached too forcefully.[3] People tend to overwhelm themselves by taking on a bunch of new hobbies, or launching a side project for the dream business they’ve always wanted. Usually they take all of these tasks on at once and ultimately burn themselves out. This leaves them defeated, feeling as if happiness is as they say, just not in the cards.

Integrating happiness, and ultimately prioritizing it is a bit like a diet. If you take on too much at once, you’re bound to crash and give up. The key is small lifestyle changes that eventually become a part of your daily routine.

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Now is the time to start prioritizing your happiness, and here’s how.

Create a list

Write down everything in your life that doesn’t satisfy you. Fold a sheet of paper down the middle and on one side label it: “What Needs to Change.” Perhaps it’s a bad habit that you can’t seem to kick, the fact that you feel bored, tired, sore, you don’t feel attractive, or you feel like your life doesn’t have any passion or meaning. Just write it all down and get it all out. Now on the other side of the paper, I want you to label it as, “Solutions.” List 3 solutions to each issue, even if they are a bit of a stretch. The idea here is that you’re searching for answers instead of ignoring the problem. If you can’t think of three solutions that’s more than okay. As long as you can come up with at least one you’re making progress.

For example: Let’s say that you wish you had more friends, or the courage to talk to people. Three possible solutions would be:

1. Say hello and start a conversation with a stranger 2 times a week.

2. Join a group or a class, surrounding yourself with like-minded people with similar interests.

3. Ask someone you think is cool on a friend date. Invite them to that class you just joined. Chances are they’ll take you up on the offer, and now you have a new acquaintance and possible friend to hang with.

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Designated “Me” Time

Set aside time for yourself at least 20 minutes a day, whether it’s before or after work, or maybe on the weekend. Take this time to take a bath, meditate, go for a hike, pick up a new hobby such as watercolor or knitting.

I know you’re busy, we all are. But busy people are the best at making time for their top priorities, and you should always be number one. Give yourself a chance to replenish and recharge. Otherwise you’re just pouring from an empty cup, and it’s going to run you dry.

Volunteer/Get involved

Reach deep down and think of an issue that concerns you. Women’s rights, food activism, animal activism, preserving nature, homelessness, etc. Whatever it is, there is a group fighting for the advancement of the cause and they need your help.

Contact them, see what you can do. It could be something as small as passing out flyers, or getting out there and giving fruit to the destitute.

You will become full with a new sense of purpose, and the knowledge that you did something to help. You’re now a part of the solution, and you’re awesome!

Reference

More by this author

Jenn Beach

Traveling vagabond, writer, & plant-based food enthusiast.

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Last Updated on December 10, 2019

5 Smart Reasons to Start Journal Writing Today

5 Smart Reasons to Start Journal Writing Today

Here’s the truth: your effectiveness at life is not what it could be. You’re missing out.

Each day passes by and you have nothing to prove that it even happened. Did you achieve something? Go on a date? Have an emotional breakthrough? Who knows?

But what you do know is that you don’t want to make the same mistakes that you’ve made in the past.

Our lives are full of hidden gems of knowledge and insight, and the most recent events in our lives contain the most useful gems of all. Do you know why? It’s simple, those hidden lessons are the most up to date, meaning they have the largest impact on what we’re doing right now.

But the question is, how do you get those lessons? There’s a simple way to do it, and it doesn’t involve time machines:

Journal writing.

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Improved mental clarity, the ability to see our lives in the big picture, as well as serving as a piece of evidence cataloguing every success we’ve ever had; we are provided all of the above and more by doing some journal writing.

Journal writing is a useful and flexible tool to help shed light on achieving your goals.

Here’s 5 smart reasons why you should do journal writing:

1. Journals Help You Have a Better Connection with Your Values, Emotions, and Goals

By journaling about what you believe in, why you believe it, how you feel, and what your goals are, you understand your relationships with these things better. This is because you must sort through the mental clutter and provide details on why you do what you do and feel what you feel.

Consider this:

Perhaps you’ve spent the last year or so working at a job you don’t like. It would be easy to just suck it up and keep working with your head down, going on as if it’s supposed to be normal to not like your job. Nobody else is complaining, so why should you, right?

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But a little journal writing will set things straight for you. You don’t like your job. You feel like it’s robbing you of happiness and satisfaction, and you don’t see yourself better there in the future.

The other workers? Maybe they don’t know, maybe they don’t care. But you do, you know and care enough to do something about it. And you’re capable of fixing this problem because your journal writing allows you to finally be honest with yourself about it.

2. Journals Improve Mental Clarity and Help Improve Your Focus

If there’s one thing journal writing is good for, it’s clearing the mental clutter.

How does it work? Simply, whenever you have a problem and write about it in a journal, you transfer the problem from your head to the paper. This empties the mind, allowing allocation of precious resources to problem-solving rather than problem-storing.

Let’s say you’ve been juggling several tasks at work. You’ve got data entry, testing, e-mails, problems with the boss, and so on—enough to overwhelm you—but as you start journal writing, things become clearer and easier to understand: Data entry can actually wait till Thursday; Bill kindly offered earlier to do my testing; For e-mails, I can check them now; the boss is just upset because Becky called in sick, etc.

You become better able to focus and reason your tasks out, and this is an indispensable and useful skill to have.

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3. Journals Improve Insight and Understanding

As a positive consequence of improving your mental clarity, you become more open to insights you may have missed before. As you write your notes out, you’re essentially having a dialogue with yourself. This draws out insights that you would have missed otherwise; it’s almost as if two people are working together to better understand each other. This kind of insight is only available to the person who has taken the time to connect with and understand themselves in the form of writing.

Once you’ve gotten a few entries written down, new insights can be gleaned from reading over them. What themes do you see in your life? Do you keep switching goals halfway through? Are you constantly dating the same type of people who aren’t good for you? Have you slowly but surely pushed people out of your life for fear of being hurt?

All of these questions can be answered by simply self-reflecting, but you can only discover the answers if you’ve captured them in writing. These questions are going to be tough to answer without a journal of your actions and experiences.

4. Journals Track Your Overall Development

Life happens, and it can happen fast. Sometimes we don’t take the time to stop and look around at what’s happening to us at each moment. We don’t get to see the step-by-step progress that we’re making in our own lives. So what happens? One day it’s the future, and you have no idea how you’ve gotten there.

Journal writing allows you to see how you’ve changed over time, so you can see where you did things right, and you can see where you took a misstep and fell.

The great thing about journals is that you’ll know what that misstep was, and you can make sure it doesn’t happen again—all because you made sure to log it, allowing yourself to learn from your mistakes.

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5. Journals Facilitate Personal Growth

The best thing about journal writing is that no matter what you end up writing about, it’s hard to not grow from it. You can’t just look at a past entry in which you acted shamefully and say “that was dumb, anyway!” No, we say “I will never make a dumb choice like that again!”

It’s impossible not to grow when it comes to journal writing. That’s what makes journal writing such a powerful tool, whether it’s about achieving goals, becoming a better person, or just general personal-development. No matter what you use it for, you’ll eventually see yourself growing as a person.

Kickstart Journaling

How can journaling best be of use to you? To vent your emotions? To help achieve your goals? To help clear your mind? What do you think makes journaling such a useful life skill?

Know the answer? Then it’s about time you reap the benefits of journal writing and start putting pen to paper.

Here’s what you can do to start journaling:

Featured photo credit: Jealous Weekends via unsplash.com

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