Happiness – the most sought after of emotional states
By Duane Hewitt
Are you happy? What is happiness and do we really have an accurate understanding of this most sought after of emotional states? How does one find happiness, or maintain it, or rediscover it once it goes missing?
According to Harold H. Bloomfield, M.D. and Robert B. Kory in their book Happiness (1976, Dawn Press, Simon and Schuster, New York), happiness seems to be the sum of a person’s positive (life-supporting) and negative (life-damaging) experiences in memory, as opposed to distinct moment-to-moment fluctuations in emotional experience. This is not to say that a person claiming not to be happy lacks periods of pleasure or joy, but rather that they may lack an underlying balance between the flux of everyday emotions with those that make living satisfying and worthwhile. Thus, a person’s degree of happiness refers to their overall experiences of living and to the perceptions of those experiences.
Believing we can maintain happiness with unending feelings of euphoria is likely a delusion, since life is fraught with turmoil and difficulties that continually challenge us. Living is the process of growth and development. As we battle the lions, tigers and bears of our lives, we hope to become masters of our total selves, thus helping us to walk with greater self-awareness and resiliency that will allow us the means to be happy, despite facing new dragons that will inevitably appear to challenge us.
But are there keys to happiness? Where do we begin? The following may be a few points to consider:
Self-love: Self-love is one of the greatest attributes a person can possess. Self-love means accepting yourself as you are right now, flaws and all. We’re all imperfect, but we’re still worthy of this one love. Self-love is one of the most cherished loves possible. And only through self-love do we learn to accept and love others.
Self-respect: Self-respect goes hand-in-hand with self-love, where one is supported by the other. We all need feelings of esteem and worth. And we all have a right to these attributes. Each of us has doubtless championed our way through challenges that we could not have faced without having self-respect. We owe ourselves this much.
Truth to the self: Are you being true to yourself? It’s an important question. When one opposes his or her own true nature, internal conflict arises. We know within ourselves what is right for us and when we are being true to ourselves, but are we paying attention? As the saying goes, are you marching to the beat of your own drum – or somebody else’s?
Acceptance: We all face situations in life that rattle and disturb us, and yet acceptance does not mean having to give in to those situations. Acceptance is the mindset that allows us to maintain balance until circumstances are favorable for change. Battling obstacles may sound heroic, but it can be exhausting and defeating. Acceptance empowers us to hang on until new opportunities arise for us to affect change.
Hope and purpose: What gets you out of bed in the morning? All living things need purpose. What is yours? We all need hope, too. In hope, we find the strength and courage to keep our chins up in difficult times. Hope tells us there is a tomorrow where we can fulfill our purpose.
Here’s a big one – Fun! Are you having any fun lately? Through all the trials and tribulations of living, we mustn’t forget to have fun. It makes life so worthwhile. The beauty of having fun is that it brings new zest and energy to other parts of our lives. So, whatever peels your banana for you – assuming it isn’t causing any harm – maybe you should just do it. Go have some fun!
Self-Consumption: Something we may all need to watch for on our trek through life is our very human tendency to become self-centered. When one becomes self-absorbed, it blocks the ability to enjoy new experiences, new people, and new outlooks. Yet it is a common trap. Self-consumption can lead to feelings of isolation, loneliness and despair; too little time and too few friends. Sound familiar? One of the surest ways to turn this situation around is to move outside the self and help others. That’s right. Help someone else in the world with bigger problems than you, because there are millions of them. Even if it starts small, with a kind word or gesture, it can then move on to bigger things. Helping others is a sure-fire way to help ourselves.
Naturally, happiness can be a complex issue in a world where so many of us can be challenged by so much. And, in finding happiness there are, of course, pitfalls we should watch out for. We need be certain that it is our own definition of happiness that we aspire to, and not an illusion. Idols and icons are continually being thrown before us, giving us what can often be false ideals through things as misleading as movies and glossy magazine articles.
So, to find happiness, find yourself. Be who you are and pay homage to that person with the life and love you deserve. Let happiness be the road you travel, and not just a destination at which you one day hope to arrive. Walk the road less travelled, if you must. Accept there will good days and bad. Appreciate that your views of happiness can change throughout your life and that happiness can come in degrees. And quit kicking yourself. Be good to yourself and try sharing that goodness with someone else who may need it as much as you.
Happiness is worth the effort. Our whole world needs more of it. We all do.
Copyright 1999-2016 Duane Hewitt