Happiness 101: What Happiness Is

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All About Awareness

Happiness is a mental state of well-being

Happiness requires self-awareness to know what you’re feeling

Philosophers have identified three Happy Lives

  1. The “Pleasant” Life – as much positive emotion as possible, which you have no direct control over
  2. The “Good” Life – an engaged and constant flow of new and worthwhile life experiences
  3. The Meaningful Life – knowing your strengths and contributing to a larger purpose

Meaning and purpose depend on happiness

  • Every single human being needs to feel significant, connected and belong somewhere
    • Happiness guarantees a feeling of significance
    • It’s easier to connect with others when happy
    • Being happy inspires others to include you in their own lives
  • Whatever ambitions we aspire toward will be adjusted by our happiness
    • All accomplishments are unimportant without happiness
    • In fact, accomplishments or outward success isn’t necessary for happiness

Many things can provide short-term pleasure, but can’t give long-lasting happiness

  • A nice living space – though it gives satisfaction in the house, it does little to improve overall happiness
  • Physical possessions – the rush comes while acquiring but goes away after having it for a while
  • Career successes – the benefits come with costs of many sacrifices and additional responsibilities
  • Physical pleasure – the rush comes more than almost anything else but is fleeting with age and very temporary
  • Relationships, both romantic and friends – there is value to them, but they only stave off unhappiness
  • Safety – it is comfortable to stay at home or not go somewhere, but it won’t give new answers to unanswered questions
  • Blamelessness – we can gain sympathy when seen as a victim, but we lose friends in the long run
  • Any other kind of success – success cannot lead to happiness, but happiness is necessary for success
  • Any good experience – though experiences are great for enjoying life, they are also guaranteed to end

Happiness is a personal choice, not a circumstance

  • Painful things happen, but it is your choice about how they affect you
      • You shouldn’t ignore your feelings; they are inherently genuine and deserve acknowledgment
      • However, you are responsible for the expression of all your feelings
    • How you express those feelings will affect your emotional state
      • e.g., a bickering couple will instantly become very pleasant as soon as someone knocks on their door
  • You are solely responsible for your happiness and leading yourself, whether you choose to do it or not
    • Nobody else is responsible for your happiness
    • You are not responsible for others’ happiness
    • We can influence others’ unhappiness, but they have to choose how much they want to accept it
  • Some statements and thoughts show a lack of personal responsibility for feelings
    • “I just can’t…”
    • “X is holding me back”
    • “If I get X then things will be okay”
    • “I have no other choice”

Happiness isn’t just a feeling; it’s also a moral obligation

  • By being unhappy, we destroy others’ lives
  • Being around unhappy people is miserable and difficult
  • Unhappiness is morally wrong when it steals others’ happiness

Choosing happiness is accepting the need to change

  • Change requires self-discipline
  • Changing also starts on the inside where nobody sees it, so don’t expect results immediately

There are many long-term issues with unhappiness, mostly tied to stress

Physical health deteriorates from the prolonged stress

  • The immune system fights off disease less effectively
  • Wounds and injuries don’t heal as rapidly
  • The brain has been proven to deteriorate from negativity into a combination of three base behaviors
    1. Fight – excessively angry, overly emotional, heated, agitated and unable to stay still
    2. Flight – withdrawn, distant, self-unaware, with little to no emotion or energy, depressed
    3. Freeze – paralyzed, unable to do anything without extreme difficulty

Unhappy people end up oblivious to what they do to themselves

  • Inability or unwillingness to identify feelings
  • Valuing productivity over self-reliance
  • Dependence on others to feel self-worth
  • Fear of being vulnerable
  • Fear of failure
  • A tendency to set unrealistic, unattainable and overly idealized expectations to be “good enough”
  • No freedom to self-express or experience the natural consequences of your own choices
  • A constant attitude of “I’m not good enough”
  • Exaggerating reality to the point of delusion

Self-rejection leads to self-destructive behaviors

  • Fear of taking a risk
  • Inability to trust
  • Insecurity, low self-esteem, and low self-worth
  • Fear of rejection
  • Unable to forgive self and others
  • Self-critical and self-deprecating

Relationships become strained when someone is perpetually miserable

  • Poor relationship skills and failed relationships
  • Legalism becomes confused as the means to being loved and accepted
  • Inability to establish intimacy
  • A constant need for approval
  • Can become withdrawn and isolated to avoid rejection and non-approval
  • Focusing on always pleasing others instead of taking time for self-improvement
  • Feelings of being misunderstood, not approved of and defensive

There are many benefits to being naturally happy

Happy people are better at self-discipline

  • Inhibitions are stopped more often and emotions are managed more clearly
  • More able to learn new ways of living and change

You see the world in a better way

  • You have a natural sense of self-value and worth
  • Time becomes a valuable resource that can be used for a greater goal instead of a measurement of how long until the next painful event
  • Your relationship with God and connection with the supernatural grows naturally and organically, as opposed to a religious dogmatism or shame

Happy thinking makes wiser decisions

  • You naturally know your feelings and draw on them in major decisions instead of feelings seemingly from nowhere sabotaging those decisions
  • There’s more willpower to respond to things instead of reacting, do the necessary research and be willing to accept uncertainty
  • Your ability to come up with more creative solutions is improved tremendously

Hardship is easier to handle with happiness

  • You can persist in setbacks and channel emotional energy toward worthwhile goals
  • It’s easier to see changes as opportunities instead of as struggles
  • There’s a proper response to sorrow, but you naturally come back to a genuine and deep center of joy
  • You’re less likely to get diseases

Routine daily life gets better

  • Happiness gives more energy throughout your day
  • You are more focused on what you are doing and are more productive
  • Skills and knowledge are learned faster
  • Your life expectancy increases

On top of personal benefits, it’s easier to interact with others

You won’t feel fear of being vulnerable, which leads to open and honest relationships

  • You have no fear of backlash from others if you make a mistake or fail
  • There’s no need to use emotional blackmail or guilt trips to get your way
  • Feelings of warmth, being cared for and being nurtured
  • You feel free to be yourself

You can express emotions honestly in appropriate settings

  • There will be no need to change behavior purely to please someone
  • You will feel free to open up your feelings with no fear of rejection or non-approval
  • You can recognize others’ feelings as appropriate and empathize properly

You will feel that others will respond to you better

  • Kindness and gentleness
  • Approval of you for who you are instead of what you do
  • Listening to and understanding you

Your friendships become much more meaningful to you

  • You can respond to both praise and criticism with grace and tact
  • You can offer yourself to others as a worthwhile overflow of your wellness

Happiness is an intentional focus on good things

There are many good things to observe, and no two happy people see quite the same things

  • True things, especially philosophies and good values
  • Noble and honorable things, like the power of friendship
  • Morally pure things, like caring for orphans
  • Beautiful things, like a sunrise

Happiness intentionally avoids or ignores focusing on a few specific things

  • Status or accomplishments compared to others
  • The way things were better in the past
  • How much better things will be since that’s not guaranteed
  • How much better things could become
  • What you don’t have or haven’t attained

Happiness requires self-acceptance

  • No conditions placed on your behaviors or state of mind to receive self-acceptance and self-love
  • Not using “if/then” clauses to make conditions for accepting and loving yourself
  • Risking being open and vulnerable to who you are with no preset limits or expectations
  • Giving acceptance and love for existing rather than doing
  • Giving respect and latitude to be yourself rather than being what others desire you to be
  • Contrary to popular belief, happy people don’t ignore bad things
    • Ignoring bad things is a form of denial, and can only work temporarily
    • Instead of saying “things are good”, true happiness says “things could be worse” or simply “I am okay”
    • It takes honesty and creativity to consider how the situation could get worse

Though it sounds counterintuitive, happiness has plenty of conflicts

We are in constant inner conflict between decisions, and that never goes away

  • Erik Erikson created stages of psychosocial development that show the conflicts across all of our lives
  • This conflict starts inside ourselves and slowly branches outwards to all of society around us

Erikson’s stages travel through a person’s life, and a neglected one will disrupt the naturally healthy cycle of growth

  1. Trust vs. Mistrust – infants up to 2 years old
    • The fight with needs for feeding, being comforted, teething and sleeping
      • Formed through the relationships with our mothers
      • Constantly asking “can I trust the world?”
    • Long-term effects rarely change and take immense amounts of self-seeking to discover
      • When loved we will have a healthy amount of hope and motivation to persevere
      • When neglected we will either have distorted senses or will instinctively withdraw from others
  2. Autonomy vs. Shame & Doubt – toddlers from 2-4 years
    • The fight with the needs of fulfilling bodily functions, toilet training, muscular control, talking and walking
      • Formed through the relationships with both of our parents
      • Constantly asking “is it okay to be me?”
    • Long-term effects take years of retraining and are very hard to change
      • When loved we will have a healthy amount of willpower and self-control to focus our efforts
      • When neglected we will either become highly impulsive or highly compulsive
  3. Initiative vs. Guilt – preschool from 4-5 years
    • The fight with the needs of exploration/discovery, adventure, and play
      • Formed through the relationships with our family
      • Constantly asking “is it okay for me to do, move and act?”
    • Long-term effects create the basis for how we define what we see as the right thing to do
      • When loved we will develop purpose and direction for our actions
      • When neglected we either become ruthless towards others or needlessly inhibited towards ourselves
  4. Industry vs. Inferiority – schoolchildren from 5-12 years
    • The fight with the needs of achievement and accomplishment
      • Formed through the relationships with our school, teachers, friends, and neighborhood
      • Constantly asking “can I make it in the world of people and things?”
    • Long-term effects determine how we approach work and play
      • When loved we develop a feeling of competence and a natural tendency to develop methods for actions
      • When neglected we either develop a narrow sense of virtue or maintain mindless inertia toward tasks
  5. Identity vs. Role Confusion – adolescents from 13-19 years
    • The fight with the needs to resolve identity, find direction and become a grownup
      • Formed through the relationships with peers, groups around us and any influences upon us
      • Constantly asking “who am I and what can I be?”
    • Long-term effects determine how we approach everything in our life
      • When loved we learn to be faithful, devoted and loyal to the groups around us
      • When neglected we either become fanatical to our groups or become outcasts from everyone
  6. Intimacy vs. Isolation – young adults from 20-39 years
    • The fight with finding intimate relationships, making a work life, making a social life and balancing all of them
      • Formed through the relationships with lovers, friends and work connections
      • Constantly asking “can I love?”
    • Long-term effects solidify our view of the world
      • When loved we learn the true meaning of love and affiliate ourselves in healthy connected relationships
      • When neglected we either become promiscuous sexually/emotionally or will exclude others to the point of being anti-social
  7. Generativity vs. Stagnation – middle-aged adults from 40-64 years
    • The fight with finding ways to “give back” to society, helping others and contributing to others’ wellness
      • Formed through the relationships with our children and our surrounding community
      • Constantly asking “can I make my life count?”
    • Long-term effects will determine how much actual influence we make
      • When successful we learn to be more caring and produce meaningful results
      • When unsuccessful we will either become naturally overextended with our tasks or reject others and their needs
  8. Integrity vs. Despair – older adults from 65 onwards
    • The fight to find meaning and purpose in the past and to make life achievements
      • Formed through the relationships with society, the entire world, and life itself
      • Constantly asking “is it okay to have been me?”
    • Long-term effects define how well we approach death and mortality
      • When successful we develop untold wisdom and learn to renounce our connection to worldly things
      • When unsuccessful we either become presumptuous about those around us or bitter at everything

We learn most sustained happiness through the art of positivity

Positivity is the ability to see the better side of things through one of the following:

  1. Ignoring or invalidating adverse events occurring, which can actually reduce self-awareness in the long-term
  2. Focusing more exclusively on the positive elements than on the negative ones
  3. Finding positive sides of negative circumstances (e.g. difficult workday comes from having a job)

How we make general and specific assumptions determines whether our minds foster positivity

  • General statements forbid universal disagreement to it (e.g., “Mondays are always bad for me”)
  • Specific statements clarify an exception to the rule (e.g., “Today, my day was bad”)
  • We can’t avoid assumptions and must choose to err on the side of good or bad
  • Positivity is, effectively, a battle between desire and fear
Next: Happiness 102 – When You’re Unhappy