As I was scrolling through Facebook on New Year’s Eve reading all the happy wishes for the New Year and all the smack talk over the highly anticipated Rose Bowl (Yay, Dawgs!), I came across a post that brought my scrolling to a screeching halt. It was a simple question asked by a friend from my high school days:
What makes one happy?
I stared at the post for a long time wondering what prompted the question. What circumstances surrounding that person’s life caused such an inquiry? Was he experiencing some deep emotional crisis and seeking clarity and encouragement from his friends and family? Or was he only curious, wondering what responses the question would provoke?
(Funny how Facebook does this to us. Unless you are closely connected to a person, you never truly know the full meaning behind every post. We’re often left to our imaginations which leads to conjecture, which leads to misunderstandings – one of the downfalls of social media. But that may be a topic for another blog post!)
After pondering all the possible reasons for his question, I felt the need to respond. The problem was I didn’t know how to respond. Because I was unsure of the “why” behind the question, I didn’t feel I could give an adequate answer. But, again, the urge to respond was strong. I began to type but quickly backspaced deleting my reply. I began to type a second time. I deleted it, as well.
“What is my problem?” I thought to myself. “Of all people, I should be able to give an answer to a question about happiness. After all, I did just complete a whole year of posts about finding and sharing SMILES!”
I stared at the Facebook post a while longer but ultimately, I moved on feeling a bit defeated. The question, however, has not moved on from me. In fact, it has prompted even more questions:
What is real happiness?
How does one find happiness?
Once you find it, how do you keep it?
How can one be happy in the midst of a sad and troubled world?
AM I COMPLETELY OVERTHINKING THIS?
The more I ponder, though, the more I realize the importance of knowing the meaning of happiness, the source of happiness and the keys to maintaining happiness.
So, what is happiness?
Take a quick survey on your favorite social media site. Most likely, you’ll find that when asked the question “What is happiness?”, people will respond with an object, a person or a moment. I actually tested this assumption on Facebook. My post simply asked others to finish the sentence “Happiness is…” with the first thing that comes to mind. Here are some of the answers:
“Happiness is an endless supply of dark chocolate.”
“Happiness is family.”
“Happiness is the beach.”
“Happiness is bread.” (I love this one! She’s been on the Keto Diet.)
“Happiness is grandkids.”
I realize I may have skewed the results somewhat by qualifying the responses but even these lighthearted answers from my unsuspecting test subjects (Forgive me, please!) can provide insight into how we, as a society, define happiness. In general, I think many of us view our happiness as being contingent on something or someone.
If I can buy that new car, I’ll be happy.
If I can find a spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend, I’ll be happy.
If I get that promotion, I’ll be happy.
If he says that he loves me, I’ll be happy.
If she does this –
If I obtain that –
Thus, if our happiness depends solely on others or on things, the logical conclusion is that happiness is nothing more than a feeling or an emotion. And if that’s the case, boy, are we in trouble! Happiness, as it turns out, is quite fickle. Think about it. What makes me happy today may not necessarily make me happy tomorrow. Let’s say I get that new car I was certain would bring me happiness but I find that after a few weeks of driving it, I really don’t like it. What then? I become dissatisfied and – Bam! I’m unhappy, again.
Surely, the happiness we so desperately pursue is more than a mere ride on the emotional roller coaster of life!
Today, I again came across my friend’s Facebook question that prompted me to delve into the true meaning of happiness and to my surprise, I found that I’m not the only one who couldn’t offer an answer. After four days, he’s received only one response. Could it be that we’ve become so jaded by the disappointments in our pursuits of happiness that we no longer believe in the possibility of a happy life? Have we settled for a mediocre life over an abundant and joy-filled life?
Well, my friend, hold on. There is an answer to your question and I have to tell you, it’s a good one! There is hope for happiness and we’ll dig into that hope in my next post.
Keep reading! Part Two of “Happiness is…” will be posted soon!