What Is Happiness – Really?

A friend recently directed me to a website called The Happiness Project. Basically, it chronicles a woman’s quest to find happiness in several areas of her life. She is very insightful and has some great ideas!

Happiness is something everyone aspires to, but have you given any thought to what happiness means to YOU? 99% of my clients list “to be happy” as one of their goals for therapy. When I ask them what “happy” means, I usually get confused or blank looks.

Happy means feeling happy, right? Well, do you think it’s possible to feel happy 100% of the time? Even the spiritually enlightened, such as Eckhart Tolle in modern days, and Buddha in times past, acknowledge that all feelings are fleeting – even happiness. So if it is not possible to feel happy all the time, how does one achieve the goal of “to be happy?”

I usually ask my clients to think of a time when they felt really happy, joyous even. I ask how long that feeling lasted. I have gotten answers anywhere from “a few minutes” to “a couple of weeks,” but no one has even said that the feeling was permanent. As I ask them to dissect that memory and feeling, setting the actual joy aside, most people come to the conclusion that inner peace and/or contentment is what lingered the longest.

The grand question is, “How do I get inner peace?” I wish I had a single answer that would work for everyone or have access to a magic pill. Since I don’t, let me tell you what I have learned from my clients and my own experiences. First, realize how little control you really have over your life. The only thing you have the ability to control is your own behavior. You can’t control other people, circumstances or events. So, if you are unhappy in some area of your life, either change your own behavior or work on accepting the fact that it is what it is and you can’t change it. Once you get a firm grasp of this concept, techniques such as meditation, yoga, aerobic exercise and mindfulness will be helpful in acquiring the inner peace you seek. Once you stop trying to control everything, you’ll free up some inner resources that can help lighten your emotional load.