“Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and awful, it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living, heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.” – L.R. Knost
We think of happiness as an end goal, a state that once we achieve it, we’ll stay there forever.
But you’ve been around the block enough times to know that people aren’t happy all the time.
No one is happy, or will be happy, all the time.
One way to define happiness is as a “state of well-being that encompasses living a good life – that is, with a sense of meaning and deep satisfaction.”
From this perspective, if we want to be happier more often, then we should explore what brings meaning to our lives.
For most of us, meaning is not just found in one area, but in many – relationships with others, a purpose (usually through some kind of work – paid or unpaid), and a sense of spirituality (not necessarily religion). Cultivating these parts of our lives can lead to increased feelings of happiness.
Another definition of happiness comes from Mark Manson who says that happiness comes from solving problems.
“Happiness is…a form of action; it’s an activity, not something that is passively bestowed upon you…Happiness is a constant work-in-progress, because solving problems is a constant work-in-progress – the solutions to today’s problems will lay the foundation for tomorrow’s problems, and so on. True happiness occurs only when you find the problems you enjoy having and enjoy solving.”
This can speak to purpose too. While there’s contentment and even joy in finding something that give us purpose, we’ll still have problems.
But if we enjoy what we’re doing, whether that be in a career, as a parent, doing volunteer work, etc., we’ll find more satisfaction in solving problems meaningful to us.
Waiting for the next best thing.
How often do we get caught up in waiting for the present moment to pass, especially in the midst of a difficult time? It can be so tempting – and easy! – to convince ourselves that once we’re out of a difficult time, we’ll be happy.
Similarly, it’s easy to say that when something we want finally happens, only then can we be happy.
Here are some examples:
I’ll be happy when I meet a guy.
I’ll be happy when I get engaged.
I’ll be happy when I’m married.
I’ll be happy when I have a child.
I’ll be happy when I have another child.
I’ll be happy when I have a bigger house.
I’ll be happy when I have better job.
I’ll be happy when I’m making more money.
I’ll be happy when I have a new car.
I’ll be happy when I get new clothes.
I’ll be happy when I lose 15 pounds.
I’ll be happy when I’m on vacation.
The thing is, moments come and go. Sure, we may feel happy when any one of these things happens to us. But then that moment passes, and we’re hit with a new problem.
You get in a fight with your new partner.
You realize 15 pounds of weight loss wasn’t enough.
You hate your new boss at your dream job.
Someone hits your brand new car.
And then we just spent months, or even years, waiting for a moment that passed so quickly, which can leave us feeling disappointed for having built up this one thing to be the key to everlasting happiness.
Don’t get me wrong, I do it too. After looking at engagement rings with Logan last weekend, I’m bursting with excitement to get that ring on my finger.
And that’s okay. It’s okay to anticipate future events, and it’s actually good for our health to have something to look forward to.
That is, not to the exclusion of ignoring what’s going on right in front of us.
How many moments do we miss while we’re in our heads dreaming about a moment in the future that we think will make us feel happier than we are now?
Between now and whatever we are anticipating, life is going to happen. Focusing only on a single, beautiful moment that will pass all too quickly can cloud our enjoyment of happy moments that are happening right now.
Constantly waiting for the next amazing thing often times leads into a cycle of negativity, where everything but the highs seems bad.
Research is pointing to gratitude as an action that can help boost happiness. It may help people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.
One study found that couples who expressed gratitude to each other felt more positively about their partner and also felt more comfortable expressing concerns about the relationship.
Similar to gratitude, helping others can make you feel happy. FMRI technology reveals that giving triggers the same area of the brain that’s triggered during sex and by food.
A Chinese proverb supports this theory:
“If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”
A caveat to finding joy in giving is that it must truly be because we want to give, not out of obligation. One way to ensure that our intentions are pure is to give to organizations that are meaningful to us. If there’s no meaning behind our giving, we might walk away from the experience feeling no better than before.
Happy moments happen all the time.
What would happen if we stopped searching for the highest highs and started looking for bursts of joy, contentment, pleasure, or peace? It might be easier than we think to find happiness.
Here are ten things off the top of my head that make me happy.
- My house.
- Flowers on the kitchen table.
- Notes from Logan.
- Cleansing face masks.
- Fresh air.
- Talking with my mom.
- Watching the sunset.
- Climbing into bed.
- The sound and smell of rain.
Challenge yourself to do this too. Notice the ordinary moments found in the valleys and plains, not just the peaks. You might be surprised by what you see.
Do you struggle with the “I’ll be happy when…” state of mind? How have you dealt with it? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!