Define Happiness

I watched One Night With Adele this evening, not because I was overly interested, it just happened to come on after another show I was watching so I figured, why not? The premise was Adele chatting with Oprah interspersed with a small private concert. This post isn’t about the show though – it was fine. This post is about one question, conversation, they had about being happy.

This is one of those questions that I’m always interested to hear how people answer, not because I think happiness is the “be all, end all” but because it is interesting to see how people define their own happiness.

Often people focus on others when creating their own happiness. I think parents are guilty of this, placing their children’s happiness before their own. Which to me has always seemed to undermine the message. How can your children be happy if you yourself are never happy? If you aren’t setting that example for them of what it looks like?

This is probably why I’ve never understood concepts like “stay together for the children”. Growing up, I was waiting for my parents to get divorced, I could see the tension and couldn’t understand why they kept pushing forward. (Yes, I know there are many complicated reasons people stay in relationships longer than they should, beyond children: money, comfort, abuse (emotional or physical), fear, religion, boredom.) In my mind, it always made more sense to be happy in one’s own right, before expecting those around them to be happy.

I digress though, happiness, people define it through others (children, partners) and some through deeds (charitable works, accomplishments). It is a bit of a complicated idea.

I’ve never really been “happy”, at least not in the way people wanted me to be. I’ve had many people in my life tell me I need to be happier or more optimistic until I showed them all the door. Having people tell you to “be happier” just makes you want to defy them for trying to instil their version of happiness in you and to turn into the grumpiest version of yourself, hence it is best to rid yourself of these people.

But what is happiness then?

For most people, it takes a good portion of their life to determine what makes them happy. We spend time testing out people, places and things, seeing what we like and don’t like. We can instantly decide we don’t like a certain food; a place might take a while to feel like home; people are harder, finding your own happiness is complicated but trying to fit other people into your version of happiness can be impossible. Probably why when we find people who we think make us happy we try to hold on for good or bad.

As we spend the time finding where we derive happiness we spend time testing out our capacity for happiness too. Some people thrive at a basic level of happiness, the kind you get from a good cup of coffee or a movie. They fill their life with these simple things or pleasures and never really strive for deeper happiness. Others require a much deeper level wherein only the answers to the universe will suffice. For most people, we never find a fixed place along that spectrum, instead, we move back and forth over time. Finding happiness in an honest conversation with friends, a simple sunset or a deeply introspective idea/book/piece of music.

I think I prefer this non-static version of happiness – I’m not wandering around smiling all the time. I have things that make me smile, happiness itself is just a little more ephemeral for me. I’m just living my life, a cynical pragmatist with a dark sense of humour.

If you think I should be more optimistic in order to be happier then you probably don’t want to listen to me vent about things and you shouldn’t be reading this blog – it will not make you happy.

Agree? Disagree? Let's chat!

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