When you don’t know what makes you happy, you can end up chasing illusions that only make you suffer. The secret to discovering happiness might be closer than you think.
Happiness is a slippery little devil. For some, happiness could be as uncomplicated as earning enough to feed your family, or as basic as clean drinking water or safe streets to walk down. However, if you find yourself fortunate enough to have a stable home and hearth, you might be surprised when happiness feels elusive.
When we are no longer fighting to survive, our notions of happiness can become an endless search for the perfect dream vacation, or some gooey, delicious food. Or depending upon your appetites, happiness might be linked to high-octane sensual experiences that seem to have NOW, HERE COMES HAPPINESS stamped all over them. But disappointingly, after awhile, all of these things tend to leave us feeling empty, irritable, broke, and dissatisfied.
We might believe that it is our right to be happy, but most of us don’t have a clue what we really want and what happiness truly means for us. So maybe you assume that happiness can only be achieved with vast wealth or some tasty tootsie to bring you a three-ring-circus of amazing orgasms. Sure, why not? But based on the noted misery of lottery winners and the success of infidelity websites, it would seem that boredom, coupled with the unfortunate pull of gravity, makes it inevitable that focusing happiness on any externals is not going to lead to lasting joy.
We might believe that it is our right to be happy, but most of us don’t have a clue what we really want and what happiness truly means for us.
This isn’t to say that it’s not wonderful to feel emotional, spiritual, and physical compatibility with other beings. It’s awesome! And who doesn’t love a comfy crib to cuddle up in? But if it’s happiness that interests you, can you notice what it is about any loving union that nourishes ongoing joy? Or what home might mean even if it’s a different address every night?
A thrill ride through the senses can be dazzling, but what is actually at the root of happiness? Since nothing in life is certain, what really keeps us buoyant when the chips are down?
Well, what do you feel when you’re seen and appreciated, even when life is difficult? What do you notice when you offer help to someone in need, even if you barely have enough yourself? Does it make you happy when you play with your children or your pet?
What Really Makes You Happy?
When it comes down to it, happiness usually comes from connection, feeling valued, and being part of meaningful pursuits, whether it’s planting a community garden or being on the giving or receiving end of a smile.
When we don’t examine what really makes us happy it’s easy to assume that food, sex, fancy houses, or fast cars will be the road to happiness-land. But anything external that we depend upon for happiness is probably going to let us down when boredom, expectation, and even the hope that we won’t get evicted is what we are using to tell ourselves that we are happy.
When we can appreciate everything that life brings us, because it’s going to come anyway—even the things we think we don’t want, like illness—then maybe that happiness thing won’t be so elusive after all.
It can be challenging, maybe even daunting, to ask yourself deep questions, like What makes you happy? But when you can discover what happiness truly means for you, everything that comes your way can be welcomed.
3 Ways to Know If You’re Connecting to Happiness
1) When you say hello to yourself in the mirror, do you have full appreciation for the person who looks back at you? If not, happiness will be impossible to find. Enjoy being you, and notice how taking delight in yourself in all your gory-glory serves as the foundation for full-on happiness!
2) When you look at your life, exactly as it is, can you appreciate every experience? Even challenges bring you happiness when you can see how interesting everything is.
3) When you take care of yourself and others, notice how that can make you happy. You can be happy if you can be OK with whatever life serves up, knowing that life is a brief gift. We can be happy when we dive in and live it all fully!
In our fourth annual focus on women leaders of the mindfulness movement, ten women share what they’ve learned about living a life of meaning and purpose and how cultivating happiness fits into the equation.