How often have you said to someone else, “I just want you to be happy”?
Have you ever stopped to consider exactly what happiness means? What, exactly, is this happiness you are wishing for?
It matters because it’s hard for your wishes for happiness to come true if you aren’t clear about exactly what happiness is.
What is Happiness? A Definition of Happiness
Possibly the best place to start defining happiness is by defining what it is not.
Many people believe that happiness is having fun at a party, the excitement of new experiences, the thrill and passion of sex, or the delights of a fine meal. These are all wonderful experiences to be cherished and cultivated but they are not happiness.
These experiences are the definition of pleasure. They are experiences to have and let pass. A meal to savor, then digest. A party to enjoy then let wind down. The passion to enjoy and the warm afterglow to linger in.
Pleasure is fleeting and must be if it is to continue to please us because if we have these joyful experiences all the time, our brains adapt and turn pleasure into routine. Once that happens, it takes even more to make us feel good again. Chasing pleasure is not happiness.
So, if happiness is not the same thing as pleasure, then what is happiness?
Happiness is…a warm puppy. Just kidding, warm puppies are pretty nice but I’m putting the puppy squarely in with pleasure. After all, would it still be fun to hold a warm puppy for a month? I don’t think so. So, what is happiness?
Most of us strive for happiness. From a medical perspective, those of us who can be happier, tend to be healthier. But optimal health is not only physical, but is a balance of mind, body, and spirit. In order to begin achieving holistic, optimal health right now, I suggest pursuing the following.
- Continue to Grow – Take advantage of the fact that each day affords you an opportunity to learn more. As you learn, use that knowledge to discover new ways to improve yourself and others.
- Be Grateful – Gratitude goes a long way, and there is always something about which to be grateful. Even if it is only the bright sky on a sunny day, or the nurturing watering on a rainy one.
- Let Go of the Past – People often confuse this with not learning from the past. You can always learn from past circumstances, but you can never wish them away. Wrap your arms around the future and place your back up against the past.
- Forgive – In order to fully let go of the past, you must learn to forgive. This does not mean giving a free pass to the person whom you forgive; it gives you a free pass to move.
- Be Patient – This should not be confused with inaction. Instead, being patient means that your hard work will take time to develop. There is a saying, “Overnight success usually takes about ten years.” All worthy pursuits take time. Keep moving forward, don’t give up, and be patient.
- Stay in the Moment – Our primitive, reactive (automatic) brain causes us to fight and flee danger, such as the unknown. To that brain, the past already happened, therefore you know the outcome, and something known can’t be dangerous. So your automatic brain will try to take you there, with emotions as regret. The future is the unknown, so in order to protect you that brain will try to predict it, with emotions as worry. Staying in the moment, neutralizes this brain and helps you become more peaceful.
- Cherish Your Gifts – We all have them. You may have one; you may have many. The key is to embrace your gifts, strengths, talents and be proud of them. Don’t concern yourself with how they rate compared to someone else. Always do your best, without trying to be the best.
- Listen to Your Inner Guidance – In your quietest moments, you usually know what is right. For me, this occurs while I meditate. When you take time to be alone ask yourself questions as, “what am I going to do today to make this a meaningful day?” Don’t think about the answer let your inner guidance tell you.
- Have More Compassion – Understand that hurt people, hurt people. We all have challenges and struggles and we all have a story. Even someone who you may feel has more than you faces challenges. Simply having this understanding can help you open the door to a happier place.
- Be Assertive – Being assertive is the behavior of the mind and helps you walk in concert with your personal power, pure potential; what I call, Divine nature. It is not a fight (aggressive) or a flight (passive). It is stating your needs and wants in a straightforward, confident, non-threatening fashion. It means you are not allowing someone or some circumstance to threaten you.
- Have More Courage – When you believe, trust, or take direction from your primitive, automatic brain, it means your reactions are motivated by fear. Rejecting this, thus nurturing courage, opens the door to your mind and our personal power.
- Stand Tall and Smile – Simply controlling your posture and body language causes physiological changes that can neutralize the most primitive components of your brain. Not only does it improve your overall health, but it helps you attract other positive people and circumstances.
- Take Care of Your Body – Keeping your body moving and controlling what you feed it will help remove the barriers to your mind by regulating the electrochemical impulses of your primitive automatic brain.
- Live – I have a saying, “While I am still alive, I plan on living.” This means that while you are living and breathing here on earth, you should make it your plan and duty to, each day, enjoy, explore, and rejoice in the life that surrounds you.
- Have More Faith – Not only believe more in yourself, but believe in the process of life. Remember you can learn from the past. One thing to learn is that you have survived up until this point, no matter what faced you that you didn’t think you could survive. Have faith that you can create a wonderful life and that, whether you believe in God or not, there is energy circulating around that we cannot see or understand; yet, it can help to transform negative to positive; chaos to harmony.