Everyone chases after happiness, not noticing that happiness is right at their heels.
-- Bertolt Brecht
Happiness is quite the thing. Everybody talks about it, everybody seems to be looking for it. But what really is happiness? Some say it doesn't exist, others say it's right around the corner, if we'd care to take a look. A reader told me once, that she wasn't looking to be happy all the time, she was seeking more of a general feeling of contentment.
That made me think. So did Amitai Etzioni's video from the other day. The word "happiness" can encompass a lot of ideas, concepts and emotions, and I don't plan to go linguist or philosopher on you. I'd rather like to share what I think happiness is, and see what you think about it.
The Emotion vs the Feeling
Emotion: Spending a happy moment with friends, getting a good news, experiencing something great.
Feeling: general happiness mood of sorts, while living sad moments, or angry moments...
So one one hand, there is the happy emotion, fleeting and linked to an event, and the happy feeling, more general and lasting, layered over all kinds of instantaneous emotions. Maybe that's what Amitai Etzioni called "being deeply, profoundly happy", "lasting sense of contentment", "inner satisfaction" in his video.
I wanted to make that difference clear, as I'll be discussing the two below.
The yearned "happiness"
The problem might be that people are looking for a lasting contentment but their actions only procure the fleeting emotion. For example, buying things to be happy. It's quite a classical behaviour in our society. One buys a new car, or a TV, or a new dress, whatever the person's preferences are.
But what really happens? Upon receiving the object, the person experiences the emotion of happiness for a while: the moment of receiving it, the first use, but then it becomes usual, normal, and the emotion fades. It procures the emotion but not the general feeling of contentment.
And maybe, just maybe, this endless quest for happiness through objects is one of the reasons for today's extreme consumerism. If the happy moment is when receiving something new, then you need to get new things all the time, right?
Changing our way to be happy
I think we need to doubt this certainty in order to really be happy. Shift our values. Understand that searching to get the fleeting emotion of happiness doesn't guarantee the long term contentment.
I'm not saying that I'm perfectly content all the time, but ever since I have started questioning consumption, simplifying my life and freed more time for myself and my loved ones, I am happier than ever.
What do you think? Are you happy? What is happiness for you?
PS: I can't find the comment of that reader I mention above, so if you recognize yourself, please don't hesitate to come forward :)