There is no universally agreed-upon definition of happiness. If you google the definition of happiness, you’ll read that happiness means “the state of being happy”.
But what does happiness mean to you? And what does happiness mean to me?
If I asked you and your neighbor what happiness means to you, the two answers would be wildly different.
If you’re still looking for personal meanings of happiness, varying from person to person, then you’re in luck. Here are 11 varying answers to this question, which you can use to get inspired to think of what happiness means to you!
- Meanings of happiness
- Raffi Bilek – Director and therapist at the Baltimore Therapy Center
- Traci Shoblom – MS. in Psychology, Certified Whole Health Educator and Personal Development Coach
- Emma Donovan – M.A., LPC, Therapist and Coach
- Dana Avey – Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist at Fulfillment Counseling and Life Coaching
- Amrita Madhusudan – Neuroscientist, emotional wellness practitioner, and productivity coach
- Kahlil King – Professor teaching Psychology at Hofstra University and Economics
- Wendy Jones – Life Design Coach at The Optimists Journal
- Lauren Cook – Master’s of Marriage and Family
- Kellie Zeigler – Certified Applied Positive Psychology Practitioner
- Carla Manly – Clinical psychologist and happiness expert
- Hugo – Founder of Tracking Happiness
- Tracking Happiness helps me determine what happiness means to me
- Closing words
What is happiness exactly? What is there to learn about happiness? This article is a part of the most in-depth guide on how to be happy, which answers these questions in the first section: What Is Happiness?
Meanings of happiness
As I said in the introduction, the meaning of happiness varies from person to person. It’s even something that changes over time. What made me happy as a kid probably won’t make me happy as I get older. I’ve written a lot about defining happiness already, and the conclusion is that our meaning of happiness is as unique as we all our.
That means that no-one will share my exact meaning of happiness. Sure, some people will agree with what happiness means to me, but when you get to the details, my definition of happiness is as unique as I am myself.
That’s why I rounded up 10 experts in happiness, with varying backgrounds and personalities, and asked them this simple question:
What does happiness mean to you?
Here are their answers:
Raffi Bilek – Director and therapist at the Baltimore Therapy Center
Happiness means you can recognize and appreciate the good things.
Happiness is when you can recognize and appreciate the good things in your life without letting the bad things overshadow them. For the vast majority of us, the good in our life far outweighs the bad. Has your back been hurting lately? Consider that the rest of your body feels fine today.
Life is imperfect, filled with pluses and minuses. Focusing on the positives and savoring them is what happiness is about.
Traci Shoblom – MS. in Psychology, Certified Whole Health Educator and Personal Development Coach
Happiness is when one’s behavior is in alignment with their values.
Happiness is when one’s behavior is in alignment with their values. In other words, if you are a person who values family, and you invest time, resources, and spend time with your family you are happy. If you are a person who values health, you’re happiest when you’re engaged in activities that promote health. So, the core element of happiness is knowing what you value and then adding those things into your life. A happy life is a series of happy moments strung together.
Emma Donovan – M.A., LPC, Therapist and Coach
Happiness means embracing the messiness that comes from being a flawed human in an unpredictable world.
I used to believe that I could earn happiness by maximizing my full potential, both personally and professionally. What I’ve realized, though, is that failure, disappointment, personal shortcomings, and uncomfortable emotions are part of life. Happiness is not about transcending them through accomplishment, but rather embracing the messiness that comes from being a flawed human in an unpredictable world. Happiness is not achieved, it is lived as I embrace each moment.
Dana Avey – Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist at Fulfillment Counseling and Life Coaching
Happiness means the ability to experience gratitude and meaning amidst all experiences.
Happiness is the ability to experience gratitude and meaning amidst all experiences. Happiness isn’t a life full of perfection but rather finding the good or the purpose within whatever the circumstances – as flawed and as imperfect as they may be. That is what generates happiness. Life will give us all sorts of experiences, but if we can exercise a grateful heart within it, we can have happiness in any given moment and to have happiness in each moment, is to have it fully. We can never have total control over what happens to us, so if we can find an ounce of gratitude and meaning in all scenarios, we can thrive and be happy regardless.
Amrita Madhusudan – Neuroscientist, emotional wellness practitioner, and productivity coach
Happiness means enjoying the simple things in life.
When I think of happiness, I think of being curled up with a cup of tea and a good book on a rainy afternoon. I think of the smell of my mum’s freshly baked chocolate cake. I think of cuddling my sleeping baby and feeling the softness of his cheek against mine. Happiness is dark chocolate, good friends, clean clothes fresh from the dryer. I think of freshly fallen snow and rainbows, the rumble of the waves at the beach and the birds calling at dawn. Happiness is meeting my husband’s eyes across the room and feeling cocooned in his love.
Kahlil King – Professor teaching Psychology at Hofstra University and Economics
Happiness is the culmination of my life – good and bad.
Happiness is self-care and mental wellbeing. Having the autonomy to make my own decisions on how I can contribute to the wellbeing of others. Happiness is a balance of hedonistic and personal growth endeavors that make me a better person, and enjoy myself while doing it! Happiness is the culmination of my life – good and bad. Everything that has made me who I am has made me, in its own way, happy.
Wendy Jones – Life Design Coach at The Optimists Journal
Happiness is a mindset that is within our control.
Happiness is found when we can be content exactly where we are today and have the conviction to go after what we want tomorrow. It’s found in the moments of calm when our vision is clear, and in learning to savor the small things like a sunset, our favorite coffee, or a great conversation. We all want to be happy, so it’s best when we train our minds to find it in the things that happen almost every day. Above all else, happiness is a mindset that is within our control, it just takes self-awareness to access it so spend some time getting to know yourself and your definition of happiness will follow.
Lauren Cook – Master’s of Marriage and Family
Happiness means when you are living in accordance with your values.
Happiness is when you are living in accordance with your values. It’s when you know what matters in your life (which many people struggle to actively define) and you are in the active pursuit of those values. It does not mean that you are always successful in your pursuits; but rather, you are intentional about how you place your time and energy. Happiness also comes when we practice gratitude on a daily basis. It’s when we appreciate not only the aspects of our life that have gone “right,” but when we give thanks for the struggle as well. Even when we’re in pain, we are growing and there is just as much beauty in that experience.
Kellie Zeigler – Certified Applied Positive Psychology Practitioner
Happiness means being at peace with my past, optimistic about my future, and enjoying the present.
Happiness for me is about being at peace with my past, optimistic about my future, and enjoying the present. This means I can look back on my past with gratitude for what has happened. I can look to my future and feel hopeful about what is to come and the experiences I want to create. In the present I use mindfulness, gratitude, savoring, meaning and purpose to experience frequent positive emotions.
Carla Manly – Clinical psychologist and happiness expert
Happiness means exploring and being in touch with our best selves.
I have found that happiness comes from exploring and being in touch with our best selves. When we consciously devote time and energy to being attuned to that which provides peaceful, lasting internal joy, we tend to be happier in the long term. As well, those who are happiest tend to focus on the present – being in the here and now – rather than getting stuck in the past or being anxious about the future. Indeed, those who learn that happiness exists in this very moment – not in the future or in the past – tend to radiate with joy.
Hugo – Founder of Tracking Happiness
What do you think?
Am I an idiot for including myself as the 11th “expert” in this article? If you think so, feel free to call me names in the comment section below! Since I’ve written many thousands of words about happiness, I thought I’d chip in my own opinion on what happiness means to me.
To me, happiness means finding the perfect balance between long-term and short-term happiness. Short-term happiness can be found in the simple joys of life, like going on a nice date with my girlfriend, running outside, laughing with my friends or even just enjoying a cup of coffee on a Sunday morning. On the other hand, I find long-term happiness in following my purpose in life, being free and stress-free, and working actively towards a better future.
In short, my meaning of happiness is enjoying my life as it is right now, while not having to worry about my happiness in the future!
Tracking Happiness helps me determine what happiness means to me
I want to mention here that I’ve been tracking my happiness for over 5 years now. What does this mean? It means I spend 2 minutes every day to reflect on my day:
- How happy was I on a scale from 1 to 10?
- What factors had a significant effect on my rating?
- I clear my head by jotting down all my thoughts in my happiness journal.
This allows me to constantly learn from my evolving life. It’s how I purposefully steer my life in the best direction possible. And I believe you can do the same. You can learn more about what happiness means to you, all you need to do is sign up below and you’ll get my Tracking Happiness template for free! 🙂
There you have it: 11 different examples of what happiness can mean to you. What this article proves, once again, is that happiness is different for everybody. What makes me happy doesn’t necessarily have to make you happy as well. It’s what makes happiness such a beautiful thing to learn about.
With that said, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below! What does happiness mean to you?
Founder of Tracking Happiness and lives in the Netherlands. Ran 5 marathons, with one of them in under 4 hours (3:59:58 to be exact). Data junkie and happiness tracker for over 6 years.