The Experience of Your Life Depends On Your Answer.
Happiness is one of the most sought after and precious things in our lives. We study to achieve it. We work to meet it. We suffer when we miss it. We fail to thrive without it. We talk about it. We write books and make movies about it – it’s obviously important to us. However, one question must be asked: what really is it?
To understand happiness more, first we must understand a bit more about the nature of life and living. You see, activities, events, and interactions in our lives result in emotional responses. For example, when someone passes away, our emotional response is often sadness, loneliness, or feelings of loss. The same is true for activities, events, and interactions that result in emotional responses that make us feel happy. Walking along the shoreline, going to a concert, or watching children play are only a few of the activities that result in feelings of happiness. It only stands to reason that the more happiness one experiences in their lives, the better. Right? That’s true – but only to a point.
You see, occasional happiness is quite different from a “happy life.” While positive activities result in momentary happiness, a happy life requires more. I know what you’re thinking: a life filled with lots of happiness is what makes a happy life – it’s a more the merrier kind of thing! Unfortunately, that’s simply not the case. This is also the very point where trouble begins for most people. If we were happy all the time, we’d become exhausted rather quickly. As it turns out, happiness requires a great deal of energy and concentration. Luckily, happiness is a fleeting response that fades away within minutes of whatever caused our emotional response in the first place.
A “happy life” is actually a misnomer, or at least misleading. Because life is what remains after happiness subsides, something else moves in to take its place as happiness dwindles. It’s that “something else” that determines our overall satisfaction, or “happiness,” with our lives. Do you know what that “something else” is? Most people don’t. It’s contentment – and it’s something we have to work to achieve. Unlike happiness that’s a response to a single experience, contentment is an emotional response to our overall collection of life experiences. If you’re generally satisfied and comfortable with the stuff of your life including your job, partner, home, family, etc., you are content and therefore “happy” with your life. Contentment provides a powerful sense of well-being and satisfaction in terms of the experience of your life.
However, here’s where it gets interesting. Occasional happiness in an otherwise miserable life is probably not the good thing we like to think it is. It’s like climbing a steep mountain in search of happiness and falling into a cauldron into a cauldron once our feelings of happiness wane. It’s a long emotional distance between happiness and misery and the stresses can be devastating. However, the emotional jump from happiness to contentment is more of a transition from one rewarding experience to another. Instead of a life spent seeking and falling great emotional distances, transitioning between happiness and contentment are far easier to achieve, less stressful, and doable! In short, happiness and contentment create a less stressful and more rewarding life experience – a higher quality life! This is the magic formula behind the happiest people.
So, there you have it – the math behind true happiness and a quality life. Now it’s your turn to do something with it. Explore your life and honestly assess the events, interactions, and activities in your life within the context of your happiness and overall contentment. If you want to change your life, start by changing those things within it responsible for the emotional responses of your life. I believe you’ll be truly happier because of it!