what is happiness?

I'm not sure if I could find anybody who didn't want to be happy. It's something we all want, and arguably, may be the most sought after prize in this game called life. Heck, the entire field of positive psychology is dedicated to the study of happiness, and what makes people happy. There are so many things we buy, do, and obsess over because we believe it will make us happy, but what exactly does "happy" mean anyways?

Research shows that happiness is actually a 2 part experience. The first, and most obvious part of happiness is the presence of positive emotions such as joy, excitement, elation, love, gratitude, inspiration, and contentment. 

The second factor for happiness, is a sense of satisfaction with your life, regarding where you are at in the present, and where you are headed. I might argue that this second part is much more complicated since a variety of factors influence our sense of satisfaction.

Values play a large part in what type of life we see as satisfying. While one person may value financial success above all else, another person may feel unsatisfied if they aren't living a life of creativity or creating some type of art. There's no right or wrong here, but it is important to be aware of what you value and how your values rank in terms of importance. 

Another factor, of course includes relationships and those around you. We often use reference points as a means of helping us to define where we are at. If all your friends have flourishing careers but you're just beginning, you may feel behind in the game, and thus unsatisfied. If majority of those around you are in a similar place, satisfaction may be more likely. I'm not supporting comparing ourselves to others, simply acknowledging that it happens. A lot.

Though there are more factors related to satisfaction, I'll only mention one more. That factor is one's sense of empowerment over their life. If you are unsatisfied with where you're at in life, but feel like you have the ability/control to change your situation and head towards your goal, you're probably happier than the other fella who believes he has no means of changing his life.

Below is a short video under 3 minutes found here in which Sonja Lyubomirsky explains what happiness is. 

Often, I work with individuals who feel as though their journey to happiness is so long, they become paralyzed to take the first few steps. Re-evaluating what your goals are, steps you can take to get there, and allowing yourself to accept that step 1 may feel far away from that goal but is part of the path to it, can help you to begin. Reflecting on what your values are, what order they rank in terms of importance, and whether your actions reflect these values can also be helpful. Reflecting on patterns of negative emotions or negative thought patterns can all be great places to start in the journey to improve happiness, or if you already are happy, to enhance your happiness even further.  Go forth and conquer the world, and I hope this was helpful.