What is happiness, exactly?

My mom and I have an ongoing discourse about the nature of the word “happy.” To her, the term seems too frivolous to represent a meaningful state of being in the world.

But I like the word “happy”. Clearly (see blog title). It’s my preferred lexicon of well-being in part because it’s a bit frivolous. Words like “content”, “satisfied”, and “peaceful” might elicit a more solemn notion of satisfaction, but I think we could all use a little less solemnity and a lot more light-heartedness about us.

But this discussion begs the question, what is happiness? How can you determine whether you or anyone else is actually happy?

Happiness is not a destination — some mythical land devoid of cellulite and bills and breakups where everything is perfect and seamless and shiny. Such a place does not exist. This world is wonderfully imperfect, and it was built that way intentionally. As were we. Without contrast and dislikes and opposites, we wouldn’t know the joys of pleasure and desires and synchronicities.

The question remains, how do you know if you’re happy? Sadly, I think far too many people are blind to their own unhappiness. They slog zombie-like through daily life, defeated; resigned to wretchedness. When everyone around you is miserable, it seems acceptable (and even, expected) that you be miserable, too. In our society, worry, anxiety and suffocation by stress are the norm, and many have accepted the chokehold of these emotions as a necessary evil.

But that’s not why we’re here. We’re here to enjoy our lives. If that weren’t so, emotions like joy and peace and compassion wouldn’t feel so damn GOOD (and be so damn good for us).

Happiness, in short, is about enjoying your life.

Being happy doesn’t mean you’re free from negative feelings, unpleasant situations or Facebook haters. These things come and go and ebb and flow. But they’re less important, less weighty and far less lasting when you’re happy.

Happiness means you’re authentically you, living a life of joy and love and passion. What those states of being entail to you, in more specific terms, is a wholly individual matter — as distinctive as your Starbucks order or your DNA.

Some people persist in the belief that happiness is a series of acquisitions and achievements — prestigious college, attractive spouse, upwardly mobile career, perfect kids, expensive cars, luxurious trips, influential friends, etc. etc. etc. It’s not. Humanity has shown us time and time and time again that these external circumstances, possessions and situations have no bearing on lasting happiness. I could cite examples all afternoon. It’s an inside job all. the. way.

For me, the quiz above provides a pretty accurate barometer. Yeses are good. Nos — not so much. Too many negatives, and you should probably take a closer look at your existence. HAPPINESS IS WHY WE’RE HERE. Don’t let it fall by the wayside.

(Reading this blog is a good first step.) <3

Should you want a little more happiness in your Facebook news feed, you can find Hannah Gets Happy there, too.


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