One year ago today I wrote my first entry on the happy together blog.
Today’s post is a moment of reflection. The intent is to reflect upon what I have learned about the subject of happiness and how to create happiness in my life, but more importantly to review the best and most wonderful ideas shared throughout this blog, ideas that, I sincerely hope, have made the lives of any of Happy Together’s readers better. The very act of writing a blog about happiness has profoundly improved my state of happiness and if even one single person out there has been moved similarly, than this endeavor has already been worthwhile.
What we learned from 1-year of Happy Together
This section will highlight the key ideas of happiness discussed over the past year.
- Happiness is not found; it is made and experienced
- Recall from the research of renowned scientists like Dr. Dan Gilbert or Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky that we have the power to create happiness. It is not hidden under a rock or on a beach across an ocean, the potential for happiness is within you right now and is realized upon the adaptation of certain revelations, behaviors, habits, and decisions that allow the synthesis of happiness. Many things are and will remain out of our control but, as the Stoics are fond of reminding us, the one thing we can control is our mind and our thoughts and it is precisely within that mind that happiness resides.
- Mindset is EVERYTHING
- Do not count on life to make you happy. It is up to you to BE happy regardless of what the circumstances of your life may be. Suffering is omnipresent and we all experience it on some level. None of us experience it equally and it isn’t distributed fairly. No amount of wailing, raging, complaining or praying will directly alter your life’s circumstances and alleviate your suffering, and there is no magic roll of the dice to start life from the start but this time with loving parents and a million dollars in the bank. We are all born into circumstances but those circumstances are ultimately meaningless (or at least less meaningful than we often make them out to be) when it comes to happiness.
- No, life is not fair, but holding on to a victim of circumstance or fate mindset will prevent you from being happy. Here we must look no further than Dr. Viktor Frankl. Dr. Frankl was interned in a Nazi concentration camp for years, enduring indescribable pain, anguish, and suffering of every variety as his life was upended, his friends and loved ones were murdered and there was no hope in sight. Through his book, Man’s Search for Meaning he describes how finding a purpose, a reason to live, and the mindset that he would not let his circumstances deter him – he endured his hell on earth and went on to live a happy life. May none of you ever experience what he did, but let his bravery, courage, and resolve be an example to us all of the power of the mind in creating happiness.
- Gratitude and compassion lead to happiness
- One of the most exciting revelations of the past year has been discovering the continuity and prevalence of certain notions of happiness that exist in cultures that are separated by thousands of years and/or thousands of miles – still holding common ground. The recurrence of gratitude and compassion as cultural values, religious tenants, and known pillars of happiness is perhaps the greatest example of this.
- In previous posts covering major world religions, we noted that compassion – specifically charity is listed as perhaps the single most esteemed value amongst Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism, and in my limited but growing knowledge of the subject I can now confirm is evident in Taoism as well. The proper way to exist, according to these cultures, begins with charity and compassion for others.
- We also know that gratitude leads to happiness. A common misconception is that grateful people are grateful because they are so happy and that gratitude is a natural consequence of happiness. The opposite is true. Gratitude has been linked to the formation of happiness rather than happiness leading to gratitude. Gratitude can be expressed in a number of ways including: keeping a gratitude journal, giving thanks, recalling a moment where you helped someone, recalling a time where you yourself were helped. The possibilities are limitless but the point is certain: gratitude leads to happiness. If you would be happy, first be grateful.
- You are responsible for your own happiness – nobody else can be happy for you or make you happy
- Any person who trusts the outcome of their happiness to other people or to any external events is doomed for unhappiness. The stoics constantly remind us that happiness is in knowing what is within your control and what is without, and by focusing strictly on that which is within control. They also note that for the most part, that which is within our control is almost exclusively our own mind, our thoughts, our habits, actions, reactions, and notions – nothing else.
- Being responsible for one’s own happiness, and one’s self at large is no small responsibility. Nor is it selfish. What is selfish is not taking care of yourself such that you either become a burden of sorts in requiring others to care for you, or you become a drain by not living up to your potential and offering the best version of yourself to the world. Dr. Jordan Peterson is fond of saying: “care for yourself the way you care for someone you love.” And why shouldn’t we love ourselves? Many of us don’t. But we should and we must. To love yourself is to be happy. To love yourself is to be your best self which is a boon to society. Paulo Coelho writes about the spirit of the world being nurtured when we follow our own personal legend – to care for ourselves if you will – noting that the soul of the world (that is to say all of us living in the world) are made better when any one part (an individual) of the whole makes itself better. Take care of yourself.
- The final part of being responsible for your own happiness is that only YOU can decide what happiness looks like for YOU. Happiness may look and feel different for various people – we all have different personalities, circumstances, goals, wants, needs, etc. Therefore the only person who can decide HOW you can be happy and what it looks like is you.
- Happiness is built, sustained, and measured by the quality of relationships in our lives
- Numerous scientific experimental studies have noted that people who have at least one quality relationship are happier regardless of age, sex, race, nationality, or any other variable or circumstance.
- This relationship can be in any form: romantic partner, spouse, friend, a close family member or other. The nature of the relationship is irrelevant. The happiest people on earth have someone close with whom they can do life together.
- Human’s are social creatures. Life is hard and trying to go-it alone can be miserable. Look at the increased incidence of depression and anxiety worldwide as a consequence of reduced social interactions due to Covid restrictions. Human’s need to feel intimately connected with other humans in order to thrive and be happy.
Happiness will look and feel different for everyone. One of your chief aims in life should be finding out what makes you happy and how to live the happiest life possible. You owe it to yourself, because life does not have to be unhappy. Nobody else can define or experience happiness for you. No philosophy or philosopher, religion or holy figure, book or wise scientist can definitively lead you to happiness. What works for some may fail for others, and what happiness will look or feel like will be as different as one individual to another. This blog can only point out what has worked for others in hopes that it may work for you. Certain notions will contradict one another. The point has never been about finding the definitive path to happiness, because there isn’t one. The point has only been to share thoughts and ideas, and to inspire others to a life dedicated towards enriching happiness. Happy people make the world a better place and can infect others with happiness of their own such that all people may become happy together.
I hope those of you who have been a part of this journey have found this blog helpful. I look forward to seeing what we will learn together in the next year!