Happiness. Who doesn’t want to be happy, right? We all do. In many ways, it is a basic human desire. Happiness was so important to our nation’s Founding Fathers that they even wrote it into the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”
What, then, is happiness? Maybe it is easier to define what it’s not. Acacia Parks, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Psychology at Hiram College, where she teaches classes on the science of happiness. She has written that happiness is not feeling good all the time. “Skeptics,” she writes, “have often asked whether a person who uses cocaine every day is ‘happy.’ If feeling good all the time were our only requirement, then the answer would be ‘yes.’ However, recent research suggests that an even-keeled mood is more psychologically healthy than a mood that just goes up and down.”
She also states that happiness is not just being rich or being able to afford anything we want. Sure, we all would like a nice healthy bank account to help us pay for life’s expenses. But there are dozens of stories of people who have won the lottery who end up broke and more miserable than they were before. Parks also argues that happiness is not a final destination. She states: “Most established techniques for becoming happier—keeping a gratitude journal, for example—are habits, not one-shot events, and most life events that make us happy in the short-term, like getting married or being promoted, fade over time as we adapt to them.”
So, then, what is happiness? According to Parks, it is “a combination of how satisfied you are with your life (for example, finding meaning in your work) and how good you feel on a day-to-day basis.”
But how does this work when we are in the midst of a global pandemic? Even worse, how can we be happy when we are grieving the loss of a loved one? It’s kind of tough to be satisfied when you’ve lost a job or you’re battling depression over a loss.
A key to achieving happiness in the ability to look outside ourselves. We can find ways to show love and compassion toward others, which in turn, will help us feel better inside. Oprah Winfrey is credited with saying, “The happiness you feel is in direct proportion to the love you give.”
It is something that is certainly worth trying.