As a wedding photographer, I’ve seen my fair share of happiness, love, and joy.
I’ve also seen the good-church-girl-gone-crazy, the full-on-looney-bins, the uptight look-at-me maid of honors, the monster-in-laws, and the straight up bridezillas. But that’s a tale for another time.
My point is, I’ve seen the best, and the worst come out of people, all within about 10 hours on their wedding day. Sometimes, I can understand why people are upset “Oh look at that…It’s raining, my wedding tent collapsed from the storm, my rehearsal dinner made me best friends with my toilet, my mother in law hates me, and a dog peed on my wedding dress.” Other times, one flower is out of place, and it’s like a freakin’ nightmare from Godzilla has come to life.
Regardless of what is happening on the outside of one’s life, however, I have found that it is what is going on in the inside, that dictates how we perceive (and enjoy) one’s experiences on this lovely planet.
To me, it all boils down to one central theme: Are you happy?
Go ahead, take stock. Are you happy with your life right now, in the present?
- Do you seek happiness?
- Do you believe that happiness is something you earn?
- Do you consider happiness to be dependent on goals achieved?
- Is happiness always held in the future tense?
- Do you find yourself saying “I’ll be happy when…”
If any of these ring a bell, then read on. I only can ask these questions because I too have been on a quest to determine what happiness truly means. My musings are reflected below, as I conclude:
- What is happiness?
- How can we feel authentically happy in our lives?
- Can we pursue happiness?
What Is Happiness?
I think most of us have gotten stuck, wishing for more happiness in our lives. I know I have. In the past, I have considered happiness as something that I need to pursue as if it is a goal.
Happiness is not a goal. True happiness is a journey. It is a sense of being OK with your present YOU and your present circumstances. It is a choice, to remain in a state of happiness every day.
So many times throughout life, we reach for happiness from outside influences, expecting other things or people to make us happy. This belief, however, leaves us vulnerable to comparison and relying on others. We are readily giving away our power and our infinite ability to be at peace with ourselves when we let others dictate whether or not we deserve to be happy.
But happiness, as I have come to find, it not the end goal. I don’t search for happiness. When I have let happiness become an end destination, I usually see myself spinning my wheels, searching for joy where there is none.
Its thoughts like: “If I can have X amount of business clients, then I’ll be happy.” “If I can earn 100,000 then I will feel satisfied.” “If I can earn my dream home on the lake, then I’ll be able to settle down and relax.”
All of these things, while impressive goals for life, will not bring you happiness in the future if you cannot be happy in your present state.
To experience true happiness, one must be willing to experience the full spectrum of emotion in your present moment.
What does that mean?
Well, to identify happiness, you must also know what it feels like to experience sadness or pain. To live in a present and happy state, you must allow yourself to authentically feel your current state even if that state is painful. Pain after all, is not a bad thing, just like the symptoms from the body are not bad things. Symptoms (or pain) is designed to let you know when something is not in alignment with who you indeed are.
You don’t have to fight your pain or suffering, because then you deny yourself your right to live in happiness. If you remain in pursuit of happiness, you will never catch it.
It’s ok to feel. Feel whatever it is you are feeling, then let it go. Do not feel criticism or guilt or shame for whatever it is you are experiencing.
You are not your feelings. Once you can identify with this statement, you can begin to release your real, inner soul from your feelings. This separation from self and feelings is where happiness begins to unfold.
Happiness means being present and OK with being YOU.
How Can We Feel Authentically Happy?
Happiness begins with YOU. There is no one else on this planet who can define happiness for you. The above script is my definition. Maybe it’s yours and perhaps not. You do you. That’s what life is all about, eh?
For me, being happy means waking up every day, and making a choice to feel happy in my present state.
I have to be careful, however, not to think of happiness as dependent on achievement or perfection. For example, I have a morning routine that I love. But I have to be diligent, that I do not make my happiness dependent on whether I achieve the perfect morning routine or not. Regardless if I get out of bed and stub my toe or whether I wake up refreshed and energized, my happiness is not dependent on the outcome of my life.
Happiness is a reflection of my health and mental state on the inside.
So how do I achieve this for myself?
My experience has been full of ups and downs. That’s why happiness comes from the journey itself, not the result.
A few general points that I have learned:
- I do not seek happiness. Happiness is born in my present moment.
- It means connecting with myself and feeling centered
- I concentrate on how I talk to myself. My inner dialogue is a good indicator of whether I am feeling centered and happy, or whether I am self-condemning and reaching for something else
- Living my best life means ignoring what everyone else thinks of my current state
- I embrace what I feel, and let go if those feelings do not serve my present state of happiness
- Happiness is an absence of desiring something else
One of the greatest mentors during this exploration of happiness comes from Michael Singer and his book “The Untethered Soul.” I could not have achieved half of this journey, without his brilliant yet simple logic! I had practiced meditation for over a year and felt like I was getting nowhere. After reading his book, I was able to progress rapidly and truly understand what “letting go” really means!
Can We Pursue Happiness?
Nope. Nada. Never.
That’s why the question “how can I be happy” will actually keep you in a state of unhappiness. You can’t reach for happiness. Happiness just IS.
Perhaps, that is why this question merits such frustration. Which, I get because I’ve wanted to chuck my computer out the window a time or two when researching and trying to find answers for myself.
My biggest advice – only because it’s something I work towards every day – is to allow yourself to feel whatever you feel. To embrace who you are. To love yourself. To be you, in the moment, and to choose to be OK with it.
If you can practice centering within yourself, you will begin to experience gratitude and a pure sense of joy in that present state. When you are in alignment with your most real sense of you – your soul – you will feel peace. So when pain or stress or anxiety do come your way, you can acknowledge that you have these things, but that you as a soul, are not your feelings. You are not your past pain. You are not your anxiety or your depression. You are purity, love, joy. This acceptance of yourself is happiness in its purest form.
It’s time to write your definition of happiness.
Yes, really. Do not skip this step, just because you can think of something in your head. I want you to write it down because this requires you to get crystal clear in your verbiage and the significance that each word holds for you.
You need to write a definition that works for YOU, not necessarily what has worked for me. Remember, this challenge isn’t like finding the “secret sauce” or some “magical formula” which have been some of the buzz marketing words for the last year or so. This step is about YOU, being YOU, loving YOU, you-you-you. Also you.
SO let’s hop to it:
- What does happiness look like to you? What does it feel like to you? When do you experience it? What activities or thoughts in life provoke delight? Just write it all down, your answers don’t have to be perfect.
- Look back through your answers and circle what jumps out at you. The most critical answers will probably have an emotional pull or reaction to them, so pay attention to how you feel as you read back over each response.
- Now, use your circled answers to formulate a 2-3 sentence definition of what happiness is to you. Write it down.
- How to use this definition moving forward: When you are starting to feel anxious, depressed, or directly down in the dumps, pull out this definition you wrote for yourself, and spend some time visualizing your answer in your head. Because happiness comes from within (as discussed in the blog article) you must start by healing the hurt within. Use this definition to pivot your thoughts from “woe-is-me” to focus on your happiness and abundance of joy.
And if you’re looking for the next steps, I would highly encourage you to download my free Goal Workbook. You can use this to plan out the next 90 days of your life so that you can begin taking daily steps towards achieving your goals. Now, remember, pursuing happiness isn’t a goal…but I guarantee if you can start taking stock of your life and taking actionable steps towards living in a state that you love, you will begin to recognize happiness and joy in your life! Plus, it’s free dude! Download it below!