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What is Happiness? (Part 1)

Happiness can’t be bought, at least not true happiness. Happiness is not having money, yet money has a purpose. Happiness is people. People that we trust. {People that care for us, as we care for them. People that we share laughter with, and also sorrow. Happiness is memories of both past and present, vivid memories that give us feelings of warmth and joy. Happiness comes in different shapes, forms, and sizes for different people. Happiness is waking up in the morning with a genuine smile. Happiness can quite often be memories of people, places and events that have taken place in one’s life.

It is important to store and cherish these memories of happiness so that they can be looked upon to remind us of what we are thankful for. Even in our darkest of times if we are able to draw on those moments in life that have provided us with joy it can be all the strength that we need to overcome the challenges that we face. Longevity of happiness is usually a result of people, places and experiences in one’s life. Whilst materialistic objects might provide temporary happiness, this is usually a quick fix and will not provide happiness in the same way that memories do.

Take a couple of moments to close your eyes as you read this and let your personal experiences of happiness flood into your brain…….

What is beautiful, is that no one person in the world is going to have exactly that same memory of happiness. We are all different, our genetic makeup is different, and whilst individuals may share a similar moment in time, the way that they think about that moment will never be exactly the same. Here is an example of a happy moment of mine from a trip I completed cycling the length of South America…...

"The legs are burning, the lungs are pumping, they have been climbing for hours, through the darkness and into the light. But this time as I look up there is a difference, the summit ridge is now in sight, I draw together some inner strength and drive my legs into the snow with a new found energy, like a champion fighter going into the final round. As I emerged through the clouds and dig my poles into the summit ridge, a wave of jubilation sends tingles through my body from head to toe, I can feel my heart pumping like never before. Just for a moment he shuts his eyes. As I take a deep breath in to regain control, I become conscious of everything around me, both internally and externally. I can feel my heart pumping against my chest, my blood rushing through my veins, the trickle of sweat running down my forehead. I smell nothing but Earth, there is no pollution up here, and as I open my eyes, what enters almost drops me to the floor. I am standing triumphantly on top of the mountain summit, above the ocean and above the clouds, feeling like I am on top of the world."

For myself, this is a memory that enters my brain when it is searching for happiness, a fond memory from the past, a memory of what can be achieved when we display resilience and hard work.

Understanding What Makes You Happy

To be happy, we need to know what makes us happy. Although this sounds simple, a significant percentage of the people on this Earth lack clarity over what activities, people, places and experiences make them happy. Furthermore, they haven’t taken time to identify what it is about the activities, people, places and experiences that actually drive that happiness.

For example, one might identify travelling as an activity that makes them happy. But what actually is it about travelling that makes them happy?

  • The unknown?

  • The feeling of adventure?

  • Learning about new cultures?

  • Making new friends?

It is important to take time to internalise what it is about an activity that actually brings happiness to you. It is likely that if you listed all the places, people and activities that bring you joy and happiness, then created a list of the internal drivers of them then there is going to be a lot of links and similarities. For myself, happiness comes through: travelling, sport, exercise, food and coaching. By breaking these down we can find common characteristics in my happy hobbies such as: socialising and meeting new people, being outdoors, and living a healthy lifestyle.

Once you have completed this activity for as many areas as possible you will have a good understanding of what you need in your life to create a more positive, happy state.

Whilst we will all have our own internal drivers of happiness, research has shown that more often than not, if humans are asked what makes them happy they will quickly jump to give answers that depend on external objects or rewards, such as:

  • Winning the lottery

  • Buying a new car

  • Getting a promotion at work.

Yet, as mentioned above, materialistic objects rarely define long-term happiness. What has a much greater contribution to happiness are innate factors and perceptions, as well as experiences. It is the emotions that we experience within oneself that determine one’s happiness; the gratitude that we have on a daily basis, and the way that our brain functions to perceive what is going on in our lives.

But there will be challenges.....

We will discuss them next week in Part 2!

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