What is happiness?
It might seem like an odd question, but is it?
Do you know how to define happiness?
Do you think happiness is the same thing to you as it is to others?
Does happiness even make a difference in your life?
In fact, happiness does have a pretty important role in our lives, and it can have a huge impact on the way we live.
Let’s take a look at the definition of happiness so we’re all on the same page. Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of “happiness” is a simple one: “The state of being happy.”
Not exactly what we were looking for, was it? Perhaps we need to dive a little deeper. Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of “happy” is a little more helpful: “Feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.”
So, happiness is the state of feeling or showing pleasure or contentment. From this definition, we can glean a few important points about happiness:
- Happiness is a state, not a trait; in other words, it isn’t a long-lasting, permanent feature or personality trait, but a more fleeting, changeable state.
- Happiness is equated with feeling pleasure or contentment, meaning that happiness is not to be confused with joy, ecstasy, bliss, or other more intense feelings.
- Happiness can be either feeling or showing, meaning that happiness is not necessarily an internal or external experience, but can be both.
Is it difficult to define scientifically?
With so many takes on happiness, it’s no wonder that happiness is a little difficult to define scientifically; there is certainly disagreement about what, exactly, happiness is. Although they generally all agree on what happiness feels like – being satisfied with life, in a good mood, feeling positive emotions, feeling enjoyment, etc. -researchers have found it difficult to agree on the scope of happiness.
The OED‘s definition combined with that of positive psychologists:
Happiness is a state characterized by contentment and general satisfaction with one’s current situation.
With all this in mind, why has society in recent years gathered pace and our stress levels have gone through the roof? We have become increasingly obsessed with money, job titles, appearances and an endless accumulation of stuff, which we need NOW! And if it’s not there now, we are disappointed or frustrated. There is a growing sense of discontent as we push ourselves harder and juggle more. We are overworked, overstretched and overwhelmed, but not stopping to see why. We just believe this is normal. We live in a culture of more:
MORE FREEDOM MORE CHOICE
MORE POTENTIAL MORE OPPORTUNITIES
MORE MONEY MORE INCOME
MORE STORAGE MORE EXPECTATIONS
In today’s world we are being told we need more, but the more we get the more we need. We buy new clothes when we don’t need them, we need a better car to look like we’re doing well, we need that bigger house, that new kitchen, that new sofa when there isn’t anything wrong with the other one. This merry-go-round goes from a calm, joyful ride to a never-ending treadmill. We start off enjoying the excitement of the new ‘more’ but then it becomes something we are trying to keep up with because we feel it makes us happy and we are worried if you ever stop everything will come tumbling down.
Happiness – Research has shown that people believe that their happiness depends on something else, they say it will come when:
- I have more money
- I have more success
- I have a new car
- I have a bigger house
- I have a new hair style and look like someone famous or just everyone else
- I have that new top, new dress, new coat
We have more but are we happier?
Or are we just semi happy?
When we are semi happy, we do something to distract ourselves from facing the fact that we are not fully happy. We ‘feel’, we consciously convince ourselves, that if we have this, or do this thing now it will make us happy; we have learnt to use short term fixes to mask our unhappiness
Buy something Eat Something
Work some more Drink some more
Push ourselves more Earn some more money Exercise more
We are creating lives we feel we regularly want to escape from with a Large Gin and Tonic and a Cigarette or a Bubble Bath and Chocolate, instead of creating a life we want to live everyday
Ever since happiness researchers have measured happiness and well-being levels they have noticed an interesting phenomenon: in spite of the fact that we have more of everything we say we want; we are not any happier. Research has shown that over 60 years we have static happiness but we have more.
Average ratings of happiness in the UK fell by 1.1% in the year ending March 2020, this was before Covid-19 had started.
Jaggi Vasudev, known publicly as Sadhguru, is an Indian yogi and author, who says ‘Those who are happy, know how to be happy’ but being happy isn’t the problem, we’ve all been happy. The problem is maintaining it, we struggle to maintain happiness.
Sadhguru, goes on to say we’ve lost all connection to who we are and the real fundamental reason for living and being happy.
As someone who has spent the best part of two decades helping people manage their health and their lives, so they can live better and feel better. Over the years I have seen how so many of us are making ourselves ill with over-commitment, constant comparison, judgement and negative self-talk. We are sleepwalking through our days, spending too much time cooped up in our boxes dulling our senses, paying attention to celebrities, advertising and social media rather than exploring our own lives and feelings and seeing the rich potential they have.
‘We give away freely that most precious of resources – our attention, and in doing so, we cheat ourselves out of the gifts that are already here.’ – Beth Kempton.
But on a positive note, for some time now, I have been hearing people say they want something different. There’s a growth of understanding and a yearning for a simpler, more meaningful life. Now, after 2020 and COVID-19 people are wanting this more. They are looking for a life infused with beauty, a connection to nature, an energy of everyday wellbeing, built around what matters most to them. The more people come to me exhausted, stuck, unwell and unhappy, the more I felt I needed to share my knowledge and tools that have helped me to live a more authentic and inspired life.
Finding happiness, true happiness is a big part of building our resilience to anxiety and stress. It helps us recover from something unpleasant, such as shock, injury, etc. It gives us a shining light to work towards, a reason not to give up.
Happiness = resilience, resilience = strength in the mind and body.
In my book and online course: Self-Help Toolkit for Anxiety and Stress, we work together to find your happiness and build your resilience to life’s circumstances through behaviour, thoughts and actions, so you can be happy and work towards a life you want.
Owner of Hayley Bennett Wellbeing
Founder of Live Better – Feel Better – Work Better