How Do We Define Happiness?

Mike Baird
Mike Baird

Happy. It’s probably one of the first words that we ever learned to express our emotions. Happy might mean a world of different things to each of us, but I’m pretty sure your 4 your old self was feeling similar things to mine when we used the word to say we enjoyed the birthday party we’d just attended. 

I seem to see the word everywhere I go, whether it’s plastered across tube adverts for a new dating site or a question from an energy company regarding my current electricity provider. It is a state of being that is barked at us from all angles by those promoting a lifestyle of high self esteem, a thrilling sex life or a new detox juice recipe. But what even is it? What is this elusive notion that someone once named ‘happiness’?

My very wise dad once told me that the way that we truly become happy is by finding enjoyment in everything we do, even life’s most mundane tasks. Things like enjoying the journey to work can mean happiness, or the satisfaction that comes with paying your bills on time. I might just be a very pessimistic person, but this idea doesn’t seem to measure up even halfway to the elation that happiness equates to in my head. I might not be able to pinpoint the last time I felt ‘happy’ by my definition of it, but it is surely more thrilling than the avoidance of a final reminder or the gratitude you feel to a higher power when you get a seat during your morning commute. 

In all the people that I have come across during my brief time on this planet, very rarely do I meet someone who does not have something to do or some kind of outlook on the future. Even the most questionable levels of motivation that you encounter within the human race are acutely aware that there is some sort of task ahead of them. It is in our nature to keep ourselves occupied. Living in cities and having such a rich plethora of opportunities surrounding us wherever we go only makes us busier. We are all busy people, with smartphones and tablets and schedules and rush hour. So where do we find time to be happy in all this chaos. It goes against the very fabric of our being to remain stationary and allow for the singular phenomenon of happiness to just wash over us.

Are we supposed to actively search for happiness and only do things that seem to bring us closer to it, or are we supposed to go about our lives, pretending that we are too busy to find it and allow it to take us by surprise? Neither of these approaches seems very practical to me. For one thing, if I only did things that made me happy, I would probably have to quit my degree and give up all my worldly possessions because I could no longer maintain my existence as it is. On the other hand, we may choose to just get on with life,in all it’s routine and predictability, in the hope that one day we are swept off our feet by happiness and fall head over heels in love.

Because that’s what we think it’s all about isn’t it? No matter what the level of your accomplishments, if you fail to make that ultimate connection with another human being, then you have somehow made a critical error. I’m not sure if I believe in soul mates but I do often find myself feeling like I don’t quite measure up to some of my friends, who seem to have no trouble finding someone to love who reciprocates their feelings. I catch myself wondering if there is something inherently wrong with the way that I am wired and sometimes wondering if I will ever be truly happy.

Whatever happiness looks like, whatever form it takes, and whoever it resembles if that is indeed the case, it cannot be a definitive state of affairs. It has been said before that life is what happens while we are busy making plans. Happiness then, is something we either work towards in order to look back upon with nostalgia. It is never just as it is, within a moment, because that is not life. Happiness is the superficial context within which we are being ourselves. It is the background noise or the catchy irrelevant theme song of a mediocre film. It is not a necessity, masterpieces have been created without music, but it is the finishing touch. It is the cherry on the cake that we are all yearning for. It might be a different song for you than it is for me, but the point is that your life will be a bad movie without it. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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