Is happiness the ultimate human goal? Our search for that elusive happiness state leads us to a never-ending list of books and articles. But we sometimes look for happiness in the strangest of places. Have you ever searched for happiness at the bottom of a bottle? Or perhaps in a nicer car? Maybe you thought happiness would present itself with a new house or job. Does this type of happiness last?
There are an infinite number of resources telling us where to find happiness. But do these articles actually know us? Do they take our nuances and idiosyncrasies into account? If happiness could be prescribed in a pill, how many of us would line up to take it?
Let’s dive in and discuss how you can find your own happiness. I am not here to tell you to emulate the things I have done that have brought me happiness. I want to guide you to look deep into yourself to find your own happiness.
- What is happiness?
- Two types of happiness
- How do we measure happiness?
- The secrets of the happiest person on the planet
- 5 tips to help identify and find your own happiness
- Wrapping up
What is happiness?
Happiness is a feeling of joy and fulfillment. That blissful contentment that brings us internal peace. But here’s the kicker. We are perpetually in different fluctuations of happiness. Happiness is not a destination, it’s a journey.
Happiness is interlinked with our sense of living a life we are satisfied with. One which brings us fulfillment. So, to find happiness we must first find fulfillment and satisfaction.
The path to fulfillment looks different for everyone.
Mine involves lots of animals, no children of my own, authentic friendships, and plenty of running. Yours might be centered around parenting. Someone else may find their happiness in activism. There is no wrong or right.
Two types of happiness
We can split happiness into what I perceive as acute and chronic. Aristotle distinguished between two very different types of happiness.
Veronika Huta clarifies the differences between these two approaches by suggesting that a hedonic orientation involves actively seeking happiness, positive affect, life satisfaction, and reduced negative affect.
Whereas a Eudaimonic orientation is more concerned with seeking authenticity, meaning, excellence, and personal growth
Let’s explore these terms in a little more detail.
Hedonia is not dissimilar to the word hedonistic. In fact, these words share linguistic lineage. Hedonia happiness is pleasure-driven. It is preoccupied with what feels good in the moment. Seeking enjoyment and satisfaction.
This is linked to the euphoric feelings associated with food, drugs, alcohol and sex. But it is also linked with self-care such as exercise, yoga and meditation.
Eudaimonia is concerned with seeking meaning and purpose in life. From working towards long-term goals to being concerned for others' wellbeing and nurturing. Eudaimonia brings a sense of satisfaction and happiness from fulfilling responsibilities and finding value in life.
This makes me think of striving to better ourselves, perhaps serving our community through voluntary work.
How do we measure happiness?
And herein lies a little problem. Happiness is subjective. Historically in order to measure it, we have relied on self-reporting through questionnaires.
There is an interesting modern study that uses technology to measure happiness. It introduced a “Happimeter” which uses a smartwatch to gather data such as heart rate and timely feedback from the wearer.
The fascinating thing with this is they found that measuring happiness actually increased happiness. Perhaps the process of bringing happiness to the subject’s attention made it a more pertinent thing for them to focus on. Perhaps they strived to see their happiness levels increase on their Happimeter. Either way, it has to be a good thing.
The secrets of the happiest person on the planet
I couldn’t help but wonder who the happiest person on the planet is.
Capitalism will have you believe it was someone wealthy. Large consumer organizations will tell you it is someone who drives their car, wears their trainers, eats their food, or uses their magic skin lotions.
But actually, the happiest person in the world apparently is Matthieu Ricard, a Tibetan Monk.
For 12 years Matthieu had hundreds of sensors attached to his brain whilst he meditated. This operation was led by Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist from Wisconsin University.
The results were staggering. They showed abnormal and unheard-of activity in his left prefrontal cortex. This allowed him a greater capacity for happiness and also served to reduce his propensity for negativity.
Now, this is where things get interesting. Matthieu puts his happiness down to his benevolence. He is a passionate executioner of altruism. In fact, he believes when we focus too much on ourselves, we invite stress into our lives.
So, in short, the kinder we are, the happier we are. This is supported by a scientific study that suggests that kind people experience more happiness and have happier memories.
Best of all, Matthieu suggests that all it takes to be happy is to think good and happy thoughts for 10 minutes a day. Try it.
5 tips to help identify and find your own happiness
When we join up all the dots of this article, there is a clear distinction between types of happiness.
We have acute happiness which is perhaps short-lived, represented by Hedonia. And we have chronic happiness, represented by Eudaimonia. Our happiest man in the world taps into Eudaimonia happiness with his benevolence, kindness, compassion and altruism.
With this in mind, here are 5 tips to help you identify and seek out your own happiness.
1. Be your authentic self
Follow your own yearnings. Who are you? Live a life true to yourself. How do you feel? What does your heart seek? Dance to the beat of your own drum.
There is sometimes a paradox between our innate need to fit in whilst also desiring to stand out. We want to be part of the group, but we also want to celebrate our differences. We strive to keep the authenticity of being ourselves. Interestingly scientists confirm that following our authenticity leads to greater wellbeing. We can quench our need for belonging by finding community groups of interest.
When we try to be someone we are not, we won't end up finding happiness.
This has taken me a while to practice. For a decade or so I was a bit lost. Perhaps I followed the crowd to try and fit in. To seek approval and popularity. But this didn’t bring me happiness.
I am slowly seeping into my own skin. I may not be the most popular person anymore. But I am the happiest I have ever been. I am learning to be unapologetically me!
2. Find your purpose and passion
Find your own purpose and passion. Does it involve the arts or sport? Maybe you feel your purpose is in helping rescue animals or in the nursing of the sick. Perhaps you are passionate about educating children or fighting for human rights.
Whatever your own sense of purpose is, find it. Explore it, and commit to it with all of your heart.
I co-founded a dog running club. This year is its 10th anniversary. Whilst I am no longer part of the club, I take great pride in it as my legacy. I dedicated many years of my life to helping people get fit and have fun with their dogs.
For a long time, this was my key life purpose. It was an overarching passion and made me find happiness.
Our purpose and passion can evolve over time. The important thing is we find our calling and put energy into it.
3. Find a community where you belong
Working in your local community is a sure way to find happiness. Giving back through voluntary work has been proven to increase our own happiness and sense of wellbeing. Not only are we helping others when we volunteer, but we are helping ourselves.
Perhaps you have a skill you can take into your community. Could you offer your services as a befriender? Or maybe you can help at a local charity shop.
I volunteered for a week at a camp for terminally ill children. The sense of fulfillment and purpose I felt was overwhelming.
When we do good, we feel good.
I have heard that if you only have time to meditate for 10 minutes, then you actually need to meditate for 20 minutes.
The truth is, I don’t habitually meditate. I want to and I know it will bring immeasurable benefits into my life. But my mum used to describe me as having “ants in my pants”. I struggle to stay still for any length of time. All the more reason for me to commit to a daily meditation practice.
A daily meditation practice increases our feelings of positivity, reduces our symptoms of illness, increases our connection with ourselves and others, and promotes our overall well-being.
So, if I promise to start a meditation habit, will you join me? If this is the secret of the happiest person in the world, then it must be worthwhile.
5. Be kind to others
I believe kindness is the most important attribute any person can have. Kindness is my superpower. I have recently learned that being kind does not require self-sacrifice. Sometimes a true test of our kindness is in showing kindness to ourselves.
In this manner, I have learned to let go of decomposing friendships. It has taken me 40 years, but I now recognize the importance of meeting my own needs.
Be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself for past regrets, and speak to yourself with compassion. Help other people with your words and your actions. But when something is no longer bringing you joy or happiness, give yourself permission to let it go.
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Whilst happiness is individual and subjective, the good news is we are able to influence our own happiness through small daily tweaks in our habits.
Yes, instant gratification can be found in drugs, sex and rock and roll. Also known as Hedonia happiness. But if we want long-lasting and a more meaningful type of happiness we need to focus on Eudaimonia happiness. This concerns itself with personal growth and kindness.
And remember, according to the happiest person in the world - happiness can not be bought, it must be felt from within.
Have you found happiness? Or do you struggle to maintain a long-term sense of fulfillment? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!