We’re all taught to believe that happiness is this attainable thing – almost a lifestyle. We tell ourselves that when we are thinner, richer or in love that we will be happy. This misconception is the reason why happiness is elusive. Happiness isn’t a consistent state, it’s more a fleeting feeling that comes over you. It appears when you are sharing a joke with someone you love or watching a butterfly when the sun’s shining. For a special moment you realise you feel really at peace and everything feels right in your world. Sustaining this state isn’t possible though.
We are fooled by the media and Hollywood ideas of romance and happiness but it doesn’t work like that in the real world. I have seen people chase after money, fame and material possessions only to end up even more empty than before. We are confused and incorrect about what we think will make us happy.
Happiness isn’t a consistent state
Research has shown that happiness isn’t a consistent state. We are more likely to be happy however by putting our efforts into spending time with others and sharing experiences.
Short lived happiness comes from simple one off experiences – like enjoying your favourite meal or getting an upgrade on your flight. This is known as hedonic happiness.
When we live life in line with our values – eg family, honesty etc and we are able to express ourselves freely according to who we really are and what we really want to do, we tick the “eudaimonic happiness” box. This is the kind of happiness that is based upon the question of meaning in life. Research in positive psychology shows that people who wake up in the morning with a clear knowledge of their raison d’etre in their life, experience a deep feeling of happiness and satisfaction. Their lives are filled with passion and vitality which are at the heart of eudaimonic happiness.
The pursuit of eudaimonic happiness is filled with challenges, questions, doubts, and the natural obstacles of life. It’s highly rewarding for long-term happiness, but frequently short-term impact might be difficult as you are struggling to express meaningful insights. Imagine, for example, you are dissatisfied at work. You go through an agonising period of time where you feel that “who you are” and “what you do” are mismatched. You then begin a personal journey of realising what is meaningful to you – and how to achieve it.
Hedonistic happiness fades quickly after the initial buzz and eudaimonic happiness offers an unstable experience of positive emotions. Not ideal is it?? We no doubt experience highs along the way but the world is such that there is a lot out there ready to challenge our happiness. Lighten up and accept that no one feels constantly happy and if they say they do, they are lying. Just taking the pressure off yourself to constantly be happy can make you feel more at ease!
And there it is – happiness which we much prefer to feel as never-ending bliss, becomes a fluctuating, fleeting experience. Enjoy the fleeting bits for what they are and accept a lower level of contentment for the remainder, it’s just how life is.