Feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.
That thing that we’re all striving for and constantly in pursuit of, can be summed up in the Oxford English Dictionary in just six words. I think on the whole, we all need similar components in order to be happy: people that love us, good health, time to spend on things we enjoy, the freedom to be ourselves. In fact, positive psychology theorises that it takes three key components to be happy: the first is materialistic and the knowledge that our basic biological needs for food, clothing and shelter is covered. The second is social-based, that we have meaningful and loving social interactions with friends and family. Finally, the third component comprises of a stable environment, an understanding of the world and where we are in it, how we contribute to the world and society; for many, this is where faith is satisfying and creates a stable and secure outlook on the world.
So how do we collect all three keys and unlock that elusive happiness? It feels like happiness is this tangible, hold-in-your-hand, goal that you actually get to tick off your list, but of course, in reality, there’s no truer cliche: happiness lies within you. Whilst on my break this morning, I read a really interesting blog on Refinery29: Why you should stop worrying about failure and embrace quitting. Essentially, it discusses why we should quit or give up on the things that don’t make us happy as opposed to striving for perfection and refusing to give up on things, just because of the stigma or embarrassment we’re worried we might face. Basically, if it doesn’t make you happy or serve a worthwhile stepping stone on the path to being happy, fuck it. I’m paraphrasing, of course.
When I turned 27, I decided to be more ‘fuck it’; honestly, I get so caught up in being likeable or living up to this perfectionist expectation that I have of myself that I get stuck and trapped in a little cycle of sad and gloomy, so I decided to spend a year being a little braver and being just a bit like fuck it. I’m still a people pleaser, but you know, I like to think that I’ve made progress and we all have our flaws. But maybe 25 year old me was on to something, maybe caring a little less about the things that don’t serve our happiness, that don’t help us to collect the three gold coins so that we can be ‘happy’, then what use are they serving to us? Why are you still going to that job that you hate or trying to eat kale?
As a frequent sufferer of poor mental health, I am fully aware of how able-ist it sounds to be like, ‘oh you hate your job? Quit!’ ‘You live in a tiny studio in Catford where you pay roughly eight million pounds a month in rent? Find somewhere new!’ ‘Your friends aren’t very nice? Buh-bye.’ I understand that life isn’t that simple and black and white. So maybe we need to start looking for things that serve our path to happiness and quit on the things that don’t, so stick at that shitty job whilst you find a new one, decide whether living a bit further out brings you some joy and maybe make some new friends, because your friends should be nice to you.
Maybe happiness is just as much about striving for the things we think will make us happy, as well as cutting down and out the things that make us unhappy. Maybe happiness is about being brave and choosing to be happy, choosing the things that make us happy over the things that don’t, even when the things that don’t are comfortable and familiar?
Maybe by simply choosing proactively to be on a path to happiness and contentment, that’s how we manage to be happy.