Happiness Is

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When I was researching keywords for this blog, I stumbled upon this one. “Happiness is.” I knew the intent of the keyword was that most people googling happiness type those words and then Google fills in the rest. There’s also a meme with the phrase “Happiness is…” where people fill in the rest with little things that make them happy.

The following are some of my favorites:

Happiness is…being at peace with yourself in this big, crazy world.

Happiness is…feeling excited for the future.

Happiness is…loving and being loved.

Happiness is…being yourself in a world that is constantly trying to change you.

Happiness is…finding someone that you feel 100% comfortable with.

Happiness is…seeing your ex with someone uglier than you.

Okay, that last one was a joke. You get the picture. Pause for a moment, take out a sheet of paper, and at the top write HAPPINESS IS. Then make a list of at least four of five things that you think would make you happy or what you believe makes you happy. Do that now. I’ll wait.

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Did you do it?

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Now look at your list. Do you have those things in your life? If you do, take a moment of silence and just be grateful for what you have. Odds are, however, if you’ve found this post you’re missing at least one of those things from your list. The second thing to ask yourself is whether what you wrote is actually realistic. Do you have even a possibility of achieving those things? If the answer is no, then you need to gracefully take out your pen, scratch it off the list, and practice letting it go.

One of the biggest hindrances to happiness is our expectations. An unrealistic or unattainable expectation can make you miserable. If you think you need to be a rock star to be happy but you can’t sing your way out of a paper bag, then it’s time to let it go.

Now that you’ve weeded out the things that are unattainable and spent a moment being grateful for the things you already have, you’ll find that the remaining things on your list make for a great rough draft for the goals you need to set for yourself. This exercise is a great way to set goals because it puts you in the mindset of reaching for the things you can achieve. I’m not saying you can’t stretch yourself. And I’m not saying that you shouldn’t pursue a crazy dream if that’s what you truly want to do with your life. I’m asking you to consider what is attainable in THIS season of your life.

You may not be able to achieve something right now, but after five years of self improvement? You may be closer to that crazy dream than you thought.

Happiness IS

The thing that stuck out to me, however, when I started this post was just that phrase. When we read it, our minds expect something to come after it (like I did in the beginning of this post). We do that because the emphasis is on the word “happiness.” When we emphasize happiness, we find that phrase to be incomplete unless something comes after it. Say it: “HAPPINESS is” (emphasis on HAPPINESS).

However, if you shift the emphasis to the word IS, it becomes a whole new phrase. It’s complete. You don’t need anything else to complete it. My point is simple: if you go searching and looking for happiness, you’re likely to never find it. Happiness will be something completely out of reach for you. However, if you focus on the “IS” part, you will focus on just being and you’ll automatically find yourself in a state of happiness.

You have the tools to be happy RIGHT NOW. Right this instant. The problem is that you have a mountain of expectations and ideas about what happiness is. These expectations are ruining your ability to be happy. They push happiness down the road. We say to ourselves, “If only…” and we play the game we played in the beginning of this post. If only I had more money, I could be happy. If only I had more friends, I could be happy. If only I had a better family, I could be happy. If only. If only. If only.

We are all guilty of doing it. We think we can’t be happy until we reach some plateau. The problem is that once we reach that plateau it’s not enough. We don’t realize that happiness is in the pursuit of a goal rather than the goal itself. Once we have what we think we want, we turn our focus to what we don’t have. The key to overcoming this vicious cycle is to not only practice gratitude for what we have, but also to practice mindfulness for who we are. Spending time in meditation/prayer can really center us.

If you’re not sure how to meditate, you don’t need to be a Buddhist monk to do it. You simply need to find a quiet place, get yourself comfortable (it doesn’t matter if you sit or lay down), and practice breathing consciously, focusing on your breath. Inhale for a count of 3, exhale for a count of 3. Close your eyes and turn your focus inward. Once your mind is clear of all thoughts, you will realize what real happiness is. Happiness is in being. Happiness IS.