What Is Happiness?

“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort… You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings.”

Elizabeth Gilbert

Have you ever wondered about happiness? How does it feel exactly, are you experiencing enough of it and why everyone around you seems to be having way more fun than you?

I’ve spent the last couple of years feeling miserable and constantly fooling myself that the new job, the new house, the new boyfriend, the new pair of shoes would finally force a smile on my face.

As you can easily imagine, I ended up feeling exhausted, more confused than ever and on the verge of a professional burnout. All of my successes seamed to be leading towards an even greater sadness.

The situation got even worse when I started sharing my feelings with friends, especially the always optimistic ones, who – amidst all adversity – managed to stay cheerful, calm and confident.

What was I doing wrong? Most importantly, what were the ways that would lead me to feeling more positive and satisfied about my life? I started reading and researching. My breakthrough moment came a few years later with the notion of subjective well-being.

Subjective well-being refers to how people experience the quality of their lives and includes both emotional reactions and cognitive judgements. It’s a more wide-ranging definition of happiness that takes into account particular, personal standards.

SWB assesses life satisfaction in terms of past experiences, future expectations and in relation to personal traits. This means that there is no universal definition of happiness, but rather an individual perception of the goals, standards, expectations and concerns.

Consequently, happiness is a broad term that can be used interchangeably with ‘well-being’, ‘quality of life’, ‘a state of equilibrium and balance’. Attempting to define happiness is like finding a definition of normality. Simply focusing on an absence of problems is just not enough.

What I like to focus on in my own quest for well-being (or happiness, or balance) is bringing awareness and conscious attention to positive functioning and experience: listening and trusting my own body, developing as a person, making a contribution to the community. 

As descriptive as it may sound, this definition gives me a sense of empowerment and equilibrium that is measurable and achievable through my own actions. It allows a whole area of personal experiences and activities that I can focus on and consciously practice.

It also means that your definition and perception of happiness may be completely different, in that it considers the aspects that are important to you, and a baseline – or normality – that is determined primarily by your personality traits and genetic factors.

Finally, the good news. We can enhance our own levels of happiness with simple strategies, personal training and practical steps. And that’s what this blog will be about. 

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