We place great importance on happiness, and rightfully so. Happiness has been proven to provide all sorts of benefits like higher earnings, better immune system functioning, and enhanced creativity. Not to mention, it feels really good to be happy. As a result, we all strive for happiness, but why?
Happiness is more than just an emotion. It’s a state of mind with intentional and strategic use of cognitive reflections. Happiness is influenced by our own personal expectations and acceptance of that which we can’t change. More so, happiness is dependent upon how we perceive our circumstances and experiences. So, how can be go about achieving a sense of peace and contentment that exist in true happiness?
New research indicates that happy people engage in habits that seem counterintuitive to happiness and can actually be considered downrightunhappy. Psychology Today magazine reports that “activities that lead us to feel uncertainty, discomfort, and even a dash of guilt are associated with some of the most memorable and enjoyable experiences of people’s lives”. Therefore, happiness isn’t about just doing things that bring us pleasure. It is also about pushing ourselves to try new experiences that exceed the limits of our comfort zone.
Taking risks may seem scary and threatening, and being vulnerable is both uncomfortable and difficult. However, challenging ourselves to invest in activities that promote curiosity and experimentation can propel us further in our self growth. Often, we avoid any instances of discomfort, and in turn, limit the level of happiness we reach in our lives.
There is a misconception in our society that happiness is the ultimate goal. In fact, happiness is most often temporary, superficial, and hedonistic. Real happiness consists of many factors, including occasional sadness, a sense of humor, a sense of purpose and meaning, flexibility in the midst of adversity, and attainment of meaningful relationships. As you can see, happiness is complex and requires a willingness to face negative emotions that arise and gain feedback from less desirable emotions.
People who are the happiest tend to be superior at sacrificing short-term pleasures when there is a good opportunity to make progress toward what they aspire to become in life, (Psychology Today, August 2013). By knowing this, it seems reasonable to assume that in order to become what we aspire in life, we need to determine what we are truly passionate about. Finding our life’s purpose and passion certainly isn’t an easy task, but it is a worthwhile one.
Accessing what experiences we seek out, avoid, or find the most rewarding helps us to discover the meaning of our existence and what to direct our energy toward. One key point here is that we have to be completely honest with ourselves about what we really love and what we wish we loved. We might expect ourselves to be interested in a particular activity, but our true feelings may differ from that expectation. Once we determine which activities are the most important to us, we have to carve out sufficient time in our lives to partake of them.
As you can see, happiness isn’t simple or clear-cut. Surprisingly, a certain degree of discomfort, heartache, and challenging experience lead to greater happiness. It feel happy, we need to have a balance of risk, safety, curiosity, playfulness, and an attitude of gratitude for what we have in the present moment. Likewise, we need a sense of purpose, emotional flexibility, and a commitment to engaging in activities that make us feel alive and excited. Lastly, we need to avoid viewing happiness as a destination instead of a journey. Attempting to achieve happiness only leads to failure which comes with emotional consequences. Being happy is certainly healthy, but craving happiness is detrimental to our well-being.