A while back, when I was discussing my blog with my dad, he asked me “Why Happiness?” Not in a condescending way, just out of curiosity. Why was so much of my focus on writing, happiness? To me, in some ways, the answer is obvious; Happiness is something we are all searching for. And yet, I’m not sure we really know what that means. I spent the entire year of 2018 doing a “Happiness Project.” Each month, focusing on different areas of personal development. I tried to create a happier life for myself, and hopefully create a ripple effect for those around me.
In many ways, I am much happier. I know more about my finances, I organized and streamlined various parts of my life. I try to focus on the bigger picture and not sweat the small stuff, and the practice of gratitude of integral in my life. Yet I still have moments where I am not “happy.” I cry, I get sad, I get angry, I experience a wide range of emotions, so does that still mean I am happy? Yes.
I heard a definition of happiness, from Russ Harris, recently that has really sat with me. “Happiness is the full range of emotions without struggle; it’s living a rich and meaningful life.” This is one of my favorite definitions of happiness I have heard in a while, because it’s real. It’s unrealistic to think that you are going to be walking around in a state of bliss all day, every day. That isn’t life. Happiness is not the absence of “negative emotions,” but learning to work through the full spectrum of emotions, in a healthy positive way. Bad things are going to happen, will happen. Yet, it’s how we deal with these events and emotions that really determine our level of happiness. When these hard times happen, how do you respond? Are you able to deal with the emotions, despite the discomfort they cause?
I think if we can learn to ride these emotional waves effectively; that’s when we get to authentically experience happiness. So how do you do this? How do you learn to live this full range of emotions without struggling through them? Well it starts by actually living them; not denying them or blocking them out; but accepting that these moments and emotions happen. However, don’t get caught up in these moments and dwell in them.
It’s like if you oversleep; You wake up in a state of panic, mad at yourself for snooze-buttoning it too many times, mad at the alarm, mad at life. You have two choices in this case. Accept that you woke up late, accept that this made you mad/angry/frustrated/(whatever that emotion would be for you), and acknowledge those feelings, then let them go. Move on with your day and make the best of a situation that was aggravating. Or you can stay in those feelings, hold on to them, and let them fester under the surface of everything you are doing the entire day. How would those two days look? Very different I can assure you. And the choice is entirely up to you.
This is where we need to learn to cut ourselves some slack and allow ourselves to feel and yet not get overwhelmed by emotions or events. We realize that an emotion is like the weather, it is ever changing. Like a cloud floating in the sky, that will continue to float on by. But if we can learn to to regulate our emotions, and focus on the bigger picture (climate vs weather in this example) then it is at that point that we can begin to understand what is really making us happy. One moment, one emotion, even one day, does not dictate overall well-being. It’s all of these tiny moments woven together that create the tapestry of a happy life.