We’re constantly bombarded with the idea of being happy.
“Smile. ‘Cmon. Be happy!”
Happy. Happy. Happy. We’ve been taught and told that a good life is a happy life, yet it seems like a never-ending struggle to hold onto it. Why?
Because happiness is fleeting. It’s temporary. The feeling when you complete a boss fight, meet a celebrity, or buy a new pair of shoes: in that moment, you’re radiating with joy. You. Are. Happy. Then, the smile fades away. You’re even — dare I say — disappointed. You need to play another game, seek the next thrill, or go back to the mall to get yet another pair of shoes you don’t need.
First of all, it’s important to know what’s going on in your body. When you experience happiness, your brain pumps out a wombo-combo of neurochemicals like dopamine, oxytocin, seratonin, and endorphins. Then, like smoke in the sky, it gets carried away by the wind — that residual feeling of happiness fades away — the high is gone.
Secondly, this brings us to the next important point: don’t make “happy” your goal. It’s an unrealistic unsustainable state of emotion. It’s short-lived because — let’s be honest — it doesn’t take much effort to feel that high. Go shopping, win a game, makeout with a stranger — you’ll receive a rush-order delivery of happy. But a lasting deep-seated joy: that takes effort.
We’re not taught enough that you have to work for it. It takes time and energy and cognition. Now, don’t get me wrong, those temporary happy-highs are important and a wonderful addition to our lives — they’re like little markers that we’re on the right track and it’s okay to seek them often. But don’t let it be your focus.
- Be real: we’re not robots — we’re meant to have a range of emotions and seeking a constant state of happiness is unrealistic. So, if you’re not riding that happy train, remember that it’s okay not to be okay. You’re not broken.
- Be grateful: nothing keeps you going like a slice of humble pie and the practice of gratitude for what you’ve got. Start with the basics — be grateful for the air in your lungs, the eyesight to read this, the ability to log onto internet, clean water, leisure time, etc. We take so much for granted if we don’t consciously exercise gratitude.
- Seek a path of fulfillment: it’s important to understand that you won’t get the sweet taste of satisfaction easily, but the journey to find purpose in your life as opposed to short-term feelings of happiness is worth the effort. I’m constantly evolving what “fulfillment” means to me — it’s a long-term life-long commitment, I’m not nearly close to the end, and seeking this gives me great joy.
I’d love to know your insight and experiences with seeking happiness. This is but a short (and by no means a complete) list of ways to be on the right path. Let’s discuss — leave your thoughts in the comments!
Further reading: I found this article on “Hacking Into Your Happy Chemicals” to be intriguing.