How To Say Welcome To Happiness And Mean It
Updated December 17, 2018
Reviewer Aaron Dutil
True, lasting happiness seems like an elusive thing for most of us. In fact, many people don't believe that it's possible to be consistently happy. What's more - being happy seems to mean different things for different people. This makes sense, as our lives differ vastly from one person to the next.
So, in order to say welcome to happiness that lasts, it is perhaps worth your time to first investigate what happiness means in general, and then find a definition that feels right to you. Only then is it likely that you will be successful in finding your own, unique means to cultivate happiness.
Happiness Must Be Cultivated
A large amount of data seems to suggest that happiness is not something that finds you, or that you can pursue mindlessly with the hope of blundering upon it one day. Rather, it seems to be a quality of life that requires a specific mindset to be cultivated. Most of us just forge ahead every day through the drudgery of our lives, looking for a feel-good hit or momentary gratification that brings relief from…fear? Anxiety? Boredom? Depression? The list of emotions or states of being that appear to oppose what we think of as happiness is long. Can this be changed?
There are plenty of good reasons to motivate you on your journey to find out read on.
What Is Happiness?
So, let's explore what happiness means for different people.
The Dictionary Definition
According to the online Webster's dictionary, the word happiness apparently dates from the 15th century, and refers to three aspects of human experience:
- Good fortune, prosperity
- A state of well-being and contentment; joy
- A pleasurable or satisfying experience
However, how do we attain this?
Happiness Research And Scholarly Opinions
Researchers and scholars use the term 'happiness' interchangeably with 'subjective well being'.
Two Components To Happiness
According to Sonja Lyubomirsky, Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside, happiness has two components. This positive psychology researcher explains in a presentation:
"First, (happiness) involves an experience of positive emotions, such as joy, contentment, affection, love. Happier people have more positive emotions, and less frequent negative emotions. But that's not enough. I mean, you can imagine experiencing positive emotions, yet not be a truly happy person. Which brings us to the second component, which is having a sense of satisfaction with your life, being content with the way you are progressing towards your life goals."
But even reaching your goals is not a panacea against life's unhappiness, according to Lyubomirsky. As an example, she relates her own experience when her kids were babies. "I felt I was really, really high in the satisfaction component (of my life), and all my goals were satisfied, but I was experiencing a lot of negative emotions too. So, you know, it's like you're not truly happy (when you reach your goals)."
She goes on to note that the cultural differences in what makes people happy are also important and interesting. In a detailed study, Lyubomirsky compared what Russians think happiness is, to Americans' idea of happiness. She found that Americans see happiness and its attainment in more concrete terms, which include things like family, money, success, having fun, or, in other words, more attainable things. The Russian cohort, however, had a much more spiritual slant to the happiness issue, and they listed things like spiritual salvation, a world of peace, a world of beauty. They also used a special Russian word that roughly means 'a mutual understanding among people' to further define a sense of happiness.
The Way You See The World Determines Your Happiness
Another American happiness researcher, author and positive psychology advocate, Shawn Achor, defines happiness as "the joy we feel striving for our potential." In an interview with Forbes Magazine, he explained how his interest in the subject of human happiness and how to cultivate it came about. He started studying happiness first in a divinity school, and later in psychology.
In his words: "I became fascinated by Christian and Buddhist ethics, specifically how the way you view the world changes your actions in it… Before someone makes changes to their happiness, health or success, they first construct a picture of the world. I argue that your mental reality predicts your ability to create positive change." Research is showing that where you put your attention becomes your reality, he says.
According to Achor, optimism and hope precede happiness, yet it is more than that. In order to focus your thoughts on happiness, you can train your mind to include true facts. Take, for instance, the oft-quoted example of a pessimist seeing the glass as half empty, versus an optimist seeing it as half full.
This, Achor feels, doesn't explain the whole picture, so to speak. "You could include the pitcher of water standing next to the glass," says Achor. "It doesn't matter if the glass is empty if, in reality, you could fill it." Very simply put, if you focus only on the glass, whether or not it's empty or full, your brain will only process that truth and not the bigger picture, which is often more positive than our monkey-minds lead us to believe. Achor elaborates on why it is important to cultivate a better mindset for a better experience of life: "Based on this research, the best way to change your reality is to first realize that there are multiple realities from which you could choose. I could focus on the one failure in front of me, or spend my brain's resources processing the two new doors of opportunity that have opened. One reality leads to paralysis, the other to positive change."
But what about the bad times, and how is it possible to see past the negative when everything around us seems bleak? Achor concedes that happiness is easy in good times, but his remedy for this negative-focus habit is to 'cancel the noise of your life'. He defines life's 'noise' as any external or internal information which distracts you from making positive change - first internally and then externally.
A good example would be getting an overload of negative news, such as is found on social media, blogs, newspapers or TV. This tips the balance towards the negative in your mind, so an easy remedy would be to not engage in too much of this behavior every day. But what about personal circumstances? How do you change your thinking about something that sits in front of you all day, like not having a job? Here Achor moves into the realm of rewiring your brain and changing your mindset. Decades of research show that no matter what your environment or upbringing, you will always be just that unless you make conscious positive changes to your mindset and habits, according to Achor.
He cites research that conclusively shows how making minute changes in your habits every day, can have an enormous effect on your personal resilience and inner fortitude: "Even two minutes of a positive habit, such as writing a positive email to someone in your social support group, or meditating, can literally rewire your brain and change your baseline. Your brain will eventually return you to your baseline after a victory or trauma, unless you choose to be more than your genes."
That's impressive, but isn't this approach over-optimistic and naive? How can this really help anybody when things are bad? Achor says that happiness is not the belief that everything is great, but it is rather the belief that positive change is possible. Small mental victories will eventually grow to become a 'cascade of success based on positive changes'. And being happy is, evidently, very important for how you perform every day.
Achor points out that, according to research, you will have 23% more mental energy while in a stressful situation if your mindset is positive. You will also have 31% higher productivity, be 40% more likely to get a promotion and, in the long run, experience improved longevity. He states, "The greatest competitive advantage in the modern economy is a positive and engaged brain."
Simply being more resilient and better able to conquer the obstacles in life's path are worthy reasons for cultivating happiness through gaining a more positive mindset. It seems what Rumi says is true:
"The smallest fountain inside of you is better than a raging river outside."
So, what makes people on the street happy? Here is how different people define it, these are
quotes from real people to shift your focus to little, everyday happiness.
Clint van H, UAE: "Harmony and real friendships. Nature. Quiet."
Kurt D, SA: "Singing. Painting. I'm an artist."
Ulrich C, SA: "Singing with my brother."
Sue C, SA: "Spending time with my family. And lots of money!"
Melanie S, SA: "Breathing out and remembering, "THIS moment is perfect."
Stef M, IT: "Jogging alone in my neighborhood early in the morning."
Christa D, SA: "Laughing with my son and being overcome with giggles."
What makes you feel happy? Can you define it?
Sometimes, happiness seems as unattainable as a luxury condo on the moon, especially when disaster and misfortune strike. Saying welcome to happiness every day can be very difficult then. Cultivating a positive mindset takes time, some effort, and sometimes, a bit of help. Consider online therapy at BetterHelp, and start by answering a few questions about yourself and the challenges you're currently facing. This way, you will get matched with the perfect therapist for you.