What is Happiness?
This question can be somewhat of a conundrum, but first, let’s cross out what happiness is not: it does not mean eradication of negative emotions in our lives, nor does it mean to deny experiencing them from time to time. Defining happiness as such would eradicate the concept of our beautifully flawed, raw humanity. Rather, happiness is the long-term ability to appreciate when times are good, but also have coping strategies for when challenging emotions bubble up. Happiness relates to the feelings and attitudes towards the world and ourselves. Happiness, therefore, has a unique spin to every individual.
Why is Happiness Important?
There is a common misconception with happiness: that happy people are lazy people. In the short term, experiencing happiness can boost our mood and self-esteem. It helps us expand our creativity and establish resilience to thrive, both mentally and physically, even under adversity. In the long run, happiness and practicing methods to strive for happiness drives success, keeps us healthy, and can increase longevity. Policymakers are recognizing the importance of happiness as well: the United Kingdom has a program for measuring national well-being, on top of other indicators for societal progress such as GDP.
Achieving happiness is a process, however. Personal happiness is ultimately shaped by the decisions we make and the daily activities we choose to do.
Happiness Right Here, Right Now
Here are some quick, in-the-moment approaches to work towards this state we call happiness.
Play the Mental Game - and Win
- Awareness that there is a constant push and pull with internal views towards external situations is crucial in working toward happiness. ”90% of our long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world, but by the way our brain processes the world” . In this way, recognize that it may not be the environment that is causing all of our distress. The way we look at the world is also a major factor that can be tweaked in order to achieve a more content state of being. View this TED talk for more specifics regarding the altering of our views and attitudes of external events and how it can be transformative on one’s mental well-being.
Begin Practicing Gratitude
- Practicing gratitude means having the ability to recognize the good in the world and in yourself. Take a look at your external positive happenings and internal accomplishments and traits. Take 2-3 minutes at the end of your day to acknowledge these successes, no matter how small, to celebrate your surroundings and your inner victories. Read more about gratitude.
Spread Happiness like a Brushfire
- Find an opportunity to give positive affirmation or to thank somebody at the beginning of the day, such as sending a positive text or work email. Spreading goodwill can be a great method to boost or maintain one’s self-confidence.
If All Else Fails...Take a Step Back and Observe
- There may be times when challenging emotions may become so overwhelming that it’s hard to experience or work towards gratitude. Never fear; there is an alternative to work towards stability in such a storm. Try writing an “Observations Journal”, scribbling down an emotion or a frustration that you are experiencing without judgement. There is no need to look for solutions for this particular emotion yet – we are taking the first step to acknowledge that we do have these feelings, and to accept that these attitudes and perceptions are A-OK.
7 Doors to Happiness
Project Happiness, a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring and empowering people to create happiness within themselves and throughout the world, has partnered with UC Davis to allow students access to its "7 Doors to Happiness" course. This course is a foundation to let you uncover and activate greater happiness from within - it is not a cookie cutter one size fits all approach.
Each Door introduces you to ideas, concepts and keys to happiness. The site offers videos and thought provoking questions to deepen your journey. Each Door also provides questions and suggested action steps, which link the concepts to your own experience. By giving yourself the time to reflect on your answers, you will navigate your own unique path to happiness drawing on your life experiences, so that what you come away with is relevant, personal, and meaningful.
Access is free upon request.
Access to the 7 doors to Happiness Course
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with your UC Davis email address to request login information. Please note: This resource is available to UC Davis affiliates only.