You are at your high school reunion and having a blast catching up with people you haven't seen in years. You start conversations with many people, and talk at length with a select few. Many conversations are interrupted by a squeal of recognition from someone nearby, followed by hugs, and comments about how you haven't aged a bit. For the conversations that last longer than a brief exchange, my experience is that it typically revolves around where you are living, what you do for work, family status/updates, and some reminiscing of shared memories. It's a good time. The mood is light and fun; most people seem genuinely happy. But are they?
Happiness, as much as we desire it, seems to be increasingly difficult to achieve for a variety of factors - - political strife; economic concerns; career demands; social pressures; caregiving responsibilities; etc. This elusive quest to find happiness has prompted universities to teach classes about it. Yale's most popular class (as of spring 2018) was "Psychology and the Good Life," otherwise known as "the Happiness Class." Denmark's Happiness Research Institute explores why some cultures and some countries are happier than others. The World Happiness Summit is an annual international event that brings together world experts to raise awareness about the science of happiness and the benefits of implementing policies and tools to drive a happier population. And these are just a few of the international efforts that are exist to increase happiness and wellbeing.
With all of this attention on happiness, it prompted me to do my own quick research. Using social media, I asked people how they define happiness. Specifically, I invited them to complete the following: "Happines is..."
The answers I received were beautiful. A cursory assessment of the responses led me to these major categories (in random order) of what happiness is:
My non-scientific research confirmed my personal views of happiness: the things that bring us moments of pleasure contribute to our overall happiness aura. Not a single person responded that happiness is there job, the size of their bank account, material objects they own. Happiness, according to my "empirical" study, is derived from simple pleasures, nature, and shared social experiences. Small joys which fill us up. Happiness comes from within.
This is a much bigger topic than a single blog post and I will undoubtedly revisit this in the future. I invite you to share what happiness means for you in the comments below.