How do you define happiness? Is it more philosophical or more of a concrete definition? Does it mean having freedom? Expressing yourself without judgement? Loving who you are? Having everything you wish for? The perfect body? Flawless personality? Being successful?
I was talking with my therapist the other day and both of us agreed that there is no accurate definition of happiness. Happiness isn’t this “thing” or “prize” you get. It isn’t a state of mind or a state of being. It doesn’t look the same for everyone. Happiness is often given very arbitrary definitions and explanations.
People treat happiness like winning the lottery jackpot. And there’s something very unfortunate about that: the odds of winning the lottery jackpot these days are about 1 in 303 million. That means people treat obtaining happiness like it’s this thing where there’s a big chance that it won’t happen.
That’s pretty sad. But you know what I think? I think everyone’s odds of being happy are pretty high. I believe that each person’s odds of being happy are one in one. Yep, that’s 100%.
Why? Because happiness is deeply personal. That’s why folks have such a difficult time coming up with a definition for what it means to be happy. That’s why there isn’t a playbook on happiness that any Joe Schmo can pick up and follow and be 100% satisfied with.
And by the way, it takes a TON of work to get happy – to find out what happiness means to you. Because first, you’ve got to know who you really are and then love and accept that person unconditionally. Lots of people want to skip this part and cut to the chase and it’s no wonder they still fall short of their “happiness” goal.
And no one talks about this enough because looking within yourself to find out who you are is scary. Because we all have parts of ourselves that the rest of the world may or may not shame or laugh at. So we hide them. But those very things are what could set us free and make us whole-heartedly happy and content.
So, what’s this key to happiness that no one talks about?
Alignment. Lots of people are living their lives out of alignment. What I mean by this is that they are doing and saying things that are not in line with their personal values, preferences, and belief systems. When you’re in alignment, the things you do and say line up with your personal principles.
A lot of people don’t live in alignment because they’re afraid of what would happen or what people would think/say if they did. I personally used to hide the fact that I like to read science fiction because at the time, I didn’t hang out with people that read that much at all, let alone science fiction. I didn’t want them to think I was some weird nerd.
But the thing is: I am some weird nerd. So why had I spent all that time trying not to be? It’s exhausting. It’s exhausting to not talk about the things that interest or excite you or to pretend not to like certain things or to pretend to like certain things. So now I just talk to my friends about my books and let them nod and smile, eyes glazed over and all. What a relief!
This may seem counterintuitive, but when you do the right thing (for you), you don’t need to worry about what other people think or say. Because how can someone’s opinion of you trump your own opinion of you? You’re the captain of YOUR ship, my friend. It’s not cool to live in a cloud of anxiety and shame, trying to fend off the fragments of yourself that just want to come out to play.
One of the saddest thoughts that I have almost every day is that there is so much shame in just being what we are: human. So much shame that people go to great lengths to pretend they’re not human. It’s so sad, it’s almost laughable. You see it every day: people forcing themselves to eat a certain way, exercise a certain way, smiling through frustration, even pretending they don’t have normal bodily functions such as peeing – have you ever pretended you didn’t have to pee so you didn’t have to ask where the bathroom is and reveal the fact that you can’t go HOURS without doing so like everyone else on this planet?? I’m guilty. Also, what’s with hiding tampons like half the population doesn’t need them?? I digress.
I have a theory that if everyone walked in their truth and lived in alignment with who they really are, so many more people would consider themselves happy. When you take away all of the “success”, money, property, control, power, etc., all you’re really left with is you. And if you don’t live in accordance with yourself, you’re not going to feel very “happy.”
How does one live in alignment?
Knowing who you truly are is how you can begin to live in alignment. Here are some ways that have helped me to get to know myself and live more in line with what’s inside of me. I hope they can help you as well!
Find out what you love to do and then do it
I know, I know. Knowing exactly what you like/love is not easy. There are so many outside influences telling you what to like, do, and say (looking at you, media of all kinds). It can be hard to distinguish between your actual opinion and an opinion you formed because you saw a post on Instagram that had a lot of likes and shares. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: follow your interests.
Pay attention to the things that excite you and catch your attention. Do you feel drawn to something in particular? For me, writing is something that I’ve always felt drawn to and I ignored it until I couldn’t. I also constantly found myself plowing through science fiction books like it was nobody’s business and felt more like lifting weights than doing cardio. You’ll know what you love pretty soon after you start paying attention.
Whatever the things are that you love to do, be sure to do them on a regular basis. You’ll feel incredible.
Do the “right” thing (for you)
The right thing for one person may not be the right thing for everyone else. That’s why true entrepreneurs have a tough time working at companies they didn’t start or why not everyone is vegan despite knowing the societal (and health) implications of eating meat. It’s why some people are always late to their jobs in the morning and tend stay later in the evening. It’s why people say they’re going to run a mile every day after seeing someone else do it and then stop after 3 days.
We’re not all the same. Sure, there are basic morals that are good to live by. But in everyday life, we cannot possibly live carbon copies of one another’s lives. So can we just, like, do the things that are right for us? Do you, boo.
Don’t do things that make you feel sleazy or guilty
When’s the last time you did something and then immediately felt guilty or sleazy after? I’ll go first: recently, I partook in gossip and told someone something that was not my business to tell. Immediately after spilling the beans, I felt a wave of guilt and regret. It’s not like me to gossip about people. Why had I done it then? Probably to fit in and feel connected to the people I was with.
Feelings like guilt, regret, and sleaze are telltale signs of misalignment. When you’re in regular conversation with yourself about who you are, it’s easier not to do things that make you feel like a shitty person. In that moment of gossip, had I checked in with myself, I would have come to the conclusion that I was going to feel bad after gossiping and I wouldn’t have done so. And life would have went on with me feeling much lighter and happier.
Don’t do things that you know will make you feel like a bad person, no matter how tempting it may be to fit in.
Become besties with your future self
Future self accountability is a superpower. It helps you overcome lapses in motivation and judgement. If you know you want to accomplish something that will contribute to your overall happiness and you just don’t feel up to it, think about how future you will feel. Will future you feel guilty, sad, disappointed, behind? You wouldn’t want to feel like that, right?
Becoming besties with your future self allows you to embrace the things that bring you joy today so that you can feel good tomorrow. Continuously keeping the promises you make with yourself will ensure you’re operating in alignment.
Surround yourself with people who share your values
A bunch of people have said that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. If you want to live your life in alignment, it’s important to surround yourself with people who support you in your quest for happiness. Nothing’s worse than sharing something you’re excited about with your friends and they go all Negative Nancy on you (or worse, leave you on “read” in the group chat). You’ll know you’ve surrounded yourself with the wrong people if you start to feel your energy deplete when interacting with them.
Notice how I didn’t say to surround yourself with people who look like you. Values transcend looks or even interests. They are the things that are important to you or the principles and standards by which you choose to operate from in your life. Having people in your corner that share your values is important because it means you can go to them whenever you need to vent or when you need support.
I say all of this to say: BE YOU. The key to happiness isn’t reaching some arbitrary moment in time or obtaining some “thing.” It’s being in alignment in all that you do and living on your terms. It’s continuously choosing yourself, day after day.
I’m going to pose the same question that I did in the beginning of this post: how do you define happiness? Has any part of your definition changed after reading this or even after learning some life lessons? Comment below and let me know. Don’t be shy!