I feel like I am a bit of an expert in the area of chasing happiness. I spent so many years chasing after it, and fighting to hold onto it every time I felt I had it. What that brought into my life was so much scarcity, control, and inauthenticity. When we lose perspective on the true meaning of life we can get into this habit of trying to maintain high levels of this feel-good emotion at any cost.
So what is happiness? The definition of happy is the feeling of pleasure or contentment. So happiness typically involves positive emotions and being satisfied with your life.
But let’s look at what is physically happening in our bodies to understand this emotion on a deeper level. We feel happiness in our bodies due to the release of two hormones, dopamine, and serotonin. When our brain perceives something as happy it is a signal to release these hormones into the central nervous system.
I haven’t even mentioned our primitive brain yet. Its main focus is to feel pleasure, and comfort and to exert as little energy as possible. So at all times, you have your subconscious primitive brain seeking more and more of these hormones. Focused on what to do to get more of it. This is what prompts us to chase happiness.
Knowledge is our power when it comes to all this. When we understand what is happening and why, then we can use our intelligent brain to intentionally decide how we want to show up in the world.
Because if happiness is a feeling, then it is always available to us. Happiness is something we actually create in our brain with our thinking. So again, happiness is always available to us when we want it. When we realize that it is not the outside circumstances creating our happiness, it is entirely our thoughts about what is happening, this is our power and ability to find peace and contentment with life.
We often start to think that happiness and joy is the goal. That is my purpose. To navigate life and fight to achieve greatness and happiness every step of the way.
How many of us have had that thought, when I get that job I’ll be happy. When I lose those 10 lbs. I’ll be happy. When I marry this person, I will feel complete and happy. When I have that baby. When I divorce my spouse, when I move to a different house, when I buy that different car. When I take that vacation. When I have a certain amount of money in the bank. When my child wins that award. The list can go on and on.
It really comes down to our thoughts about these circumstances and how much weight we give to them. How much importance we place on them.
It’s important to think about this from a different view, on the way to achieving things like I just mentioned, we may not automatically feel happiness along the way of that journey, right? I mean, I am not necessarily going to feel happiness naturally when I have a goal to lose 10 lbs and I am working towards that. Or as I am pursuing the goal of setting aside a certain amount of money in the bank and I am following a strict budget, it’s very plausible that I won’t feel happy. When I decide what will make me happy, my brain is waiting for the signal that it’s time to release those hormones. But the truth is, this is available to me during the journey. I get to decide what I want to feel and if I intentionally want to feel happiness along the way in the journey, I can decide that. I can make every milestone something that brings up pride and accomplishment.
But let’s not be afraid of not feeling happy. I think that is the most important key to all this. We want to feel happy because we have applied this meaning that feeling sadness, and disappointment is horrible and we must stay away from it at all costs. If we can remind ourselves that the downside of life is where the learning and growing takes place and that it doesn’t mean our happiness is at risk. Because again, we have that available to us whenever we want.
I think one of the best realizations that I came to and I practice intentionally in my life is that my life is absolutely not meant to feel great all the time. In fact, it is more realistic that I will feel good and happy only 50% of the time. I have made peace with this. I have made peace with the downside of this 50/50 life I am living and even though I may not be feeling the emotion of “happy”, I am feeling a sense of peace and contentment in my life. The truth is that we are not meant to be happy all the time. We need contrast in our life. We need to understand sadness, disappointment, and frustration. Our being able to process all emotions is what allows us to live a full life.
I have also practiced my belief in how we learn from the challenges. We grow most when everything is not as we think it should be. So opening myself up to the disappointments and letdowns in life has actually brought me the peace and contentment that I seek.
Our brain assigns meaning to what will make us happy. This is a story that we created in our brains. We have no facts. And this is the fascinating part of the human brain. When you get there and achieve that thing it told you would create happiness, we just go to work on the next thing to chase. We don’t even really get to enjoy it when we arrive. The brain is constantly seeking the next thing. This is why it is so crucial that we recognize that happiness is something that we can create more of by how we think. And one thing that never changes is that we always have a choice for what we choose to think about.
Another aspect we need to understand is that if we assign the meaning of happiness to things or objectices we want to have or get to, then we are not spending time in gratitude for what we do have. This is what really caused me pain….I looked at the scarcity in my life rather than everything I had to be grateful for. When I assigned feeling happy to accomplishments I was always looking at what I needed to do more of. This really robbed me of my peace in the moment. I am all for having goals but we need to be careful about what we make these goals mean and what we believe they will provide for us. These things are not what provide happiness. It is our thoughts about them. Go after what you want just because you want to challenge yourself and learn from the experience not because you think it will feel better there. I promise you it will still feel the same a lot of the time. How many times do we hear of the rich and famous struggling with emotional balance in their life? The person that wins the lottery and then found themselves in a worse-off place than before they won the money. These things don’t make us happy. It is a feeling of internal peace and contentment that we create from embracing all that goes well in the world and all that doesn’t go the way we would like it to.
So remember, we cannot be happy all the time if we are living a true authentic life. It just cannot happen. We must have the contrast.
We have been taught that the pursuit of happiness is the goal. But what if the goal was to embrace a 50/50 life full of highs and lows and it didn’t leave us on this happiness roller coaster? What if we could feel happiness and sadness and process it for what it is? To not have it affect our actions and how we show up in the world to ourselves and others?
So what can you do to evolve your relationship with happiness? Well first recognize how much energy you spend on trying to create happiness in your life. Are you trying to control everything and everyone to keep the happiness meter full at all times? When life does throw you some curveballs how do you handle it? Be honest with yourself when you answer those questions.
Then I would suggest that you evolve your relationship with where you believe your happiness comes from.
I could list so many things here but give some of these tips a try and see if they move you towards more peace and contentment and less focus on the feeling of happiness alone.
- Practice gratitude daily for what you do have.
- Be thankful for the challenges life throws at you, and say thank you to your source and the universe for teaching you, and helping you grow into a stronger version of yourself.
- Be present in your relationships.
- Choose to live a healthy lifestyle including Exercise, sleep habits, meditation and the foods you fuel your body with.
- Look for the good in things and people instead of what looks wrong.
- Volunteer and help others.
- Have a core set of values.
- Work to understand your feelings and where they come from better.
- Have an open mind.
- and lastly find your life’s purpose…even if that will evolve and change as you grow older. Ask yourself what am I here for? How can I make this world and my little piece of it better for those around me….today?
We can be an example to others that life is not supposed to feel happy all the time and that it’s ok and we will be just fine. Let’s start changing the narrative that the goal is to find peace and contentment in our life even when we experience the highs and the lows. Let’s make it normal to have an up and down life. Because that is our reality and any other picture we try to paint is a lie and living in pain and suffering because of a storyline that isn’t real.
I would love for you to move your focus away from wanting to feel the emotion of happy and see what it would take for you to find more peace and contentment in your life exactly as it is. Still aim for the stars, but don’t hang your emotional balance on what goes right and wrong in your life.
You are the creator of your life, no matter what happens to you. You can choose happiness whenever you want, it is available to you. But sometimes we are supposed to choose sadness and disappointment also. You get to tell the story. You get to change the narrative. You have to believe that you have this ability. Challenge your habits and your long-held beliefs. It is actually quite good for us.
“Happiness doesn’t have to be chased…it merely has to be chosen.”Mandy Hale
One response to “Chasing Happiness.”
To be happy all the time would be nice or 50/50 as you say. However I will settle for being content with life in general, sprinkled with happy moments. Each day to try and do something the is important & enjoyable. This way I can look back in years gone by and think to myself, I enjoyed my life. While during the journey to always be working on building, maintaining and fostering a positive mindset.