Smiley Mind. . .
We know we want happiness. But what exactly is happiness and how do we get it?
Happiness is defined differently depending on who you ask. Some people define happiness as a positive emotional experience. Others define happiness as having two parts called hedonia (pleasure) and eudaimonia (thriving). Outside of the scientific world, most of us define happiness as a mixture of positive emotional experiences and a deeper sense of meaning and purpose in life.
If we’ve defined happiness as both positive emotions and meaning in our lives, happiness is a state where we might experience personal positive emotions like contentment, ease, or joy. But we also experience prosocial positive emotions that give us a greater sense of meaning—emotions like connectedness, gratitude, and compassion. Here’s a little exercise to help you explore what happiness feels like.
Although we often think happiness comes from the things that happen to us, science suggests that happiness largely comes from our brains. That’s why changing the way we think can increase our happiness even if we make no changes to our lives. For example, when we focus on positive words (by memorizing them) it activates regions of your brain associated with these words. So if I think of the word “adventure,” it will likely activate my memories of adventure and the positive emotions associated with adventure.
- Learning how to think positively
- Cultivating resilience
- Practicing gratitude
- Improving social relationships
- Practicing mindfulness
- Improving your positive emotional attention
- Savoring the moment
- Imagining your best self
This not only feels good in the moment, but it can also make it easier to generate these emotions and thoughts in the future. That’s because when any region of the brain is activated, it gets stronger.
Whenever we want to accomplish anything, we benefit from creating a plan or map to get there. The same is true for happiness. So once you know what happiness is and how you define happiness you can start growing your happiness. But as you go, be careful not to be too hard on yourself. We all struggle from time to time and we are happier if we can self-compassionate towards ourselves. We really can increase our happiness one baby step at a time if we believe in ourselves.
Peace and Love, Jim