What do you desire from life? You’ve most likely had an opportunity and reason to ask yourself that question recently. Perhaps you want to spend more time with your family, find a more satisfying and secure job, or better your health? Chances are that, your answer will boil down to one word, “happiness” 

When we talk about happiness, we frequently envision being joyful all the time, every single day, every single minute with no negativity. Many people strive for a constant state of happiness as their ultimate objective, avoiding anything that can deprive them of it. But what does this type of happiness actually entail? It’s a lot like your favorite meal.  On the contrary, when you have a limited amount of time to eat it, you relish every bite. So, is it the meal itself that makes you happy, or how valuable it is to you at the time of eating?

Being constantly reminded on how important it is to be happy can leave one drenched with feelings of disappointment. It is a recipe for disaster. You can’t genuinely experience happiness if you are constantly analyzing how happy you are. Ordinary experiences that don’t bring great joy makes us feel inadequate thereby opening a well of loneliness. These feelings of disappointment are precursors of depression. However, placing happiness on a pedestal above all other emotions can make one feel a sense of failure if not achieved.

Labelling “happiness” as the ultimate goal of life, or advocating for the “pursuit of happiness”, neglects happiness for what it is, “a transient emotion”. It alienates people from other emotions and encourages them to fear and disregard feelings of sadness, anger, and anxiety.

If one is committed to the quest of happiness, even if happiness is momentarily attained, what should one do when these feelings wax and wane? Or is it just an elusive goal? Most times we actually avoid experiencing what’s happening in the present which is not always joy, happiness, or pleasure. It may be pain, sadness, loss or disappointment. We end up suppressing, ignoring and diverting ourselves from these feelings in other to maintain our focus on this elusive goal. Contrary to popular belief, accepting other feelings create rooms for happiness and contentment by allowing them to pass more swiftly. Our ability to respond to the world authentically and holistically, both internally and externally, is halted when we chose to suppress or reject certain feelings.

Comparing our lives to “snapshot” images of happiness on social media is dangerous because these images offer people the illusion of permanent bliss. These fabricated realities often convince ourselves that we are inadequate to others and this creates a sense of perpetual disappointment. The truth is that social media does not give us the right perception of other people’s lives. People just create posts that gives the illusion which they want to project.

Genuine happiness results from having put in the effort to look within, with the curiosity and compassion necessary to cultivate self-acceptance and sincere relationships with others. It is linked to a variety of other things including; cultivating gratitude, developing the ability to create a meaningful narrative of our lives, embracing all emotions that arise with compassion and curiosity, and developing enough intimacy with ourselves so as to be able to engage in relationships with others.

It takes some practice to get to the point where happiness becomes a state of being rather than a future goal. In other to re-image happiness, we need to live in alignment with our values. What are the principles and standards that are truly meaningful to our lives? What are the things that give us a sense of purpose, a sense of significance? What drives our passion? Living in alignment with your values gives you a sense of satisfaction and joy. It shows that you are living your purpose and passion.

Completely engaging in something you enjoy whether it is painting, writing, or riding a bicycle creates a state of flow naturally. You cease to think about yourself, which is why you get this incredible, almost euphoric reaction. You become completely engrossed in what you are doing and lose all sense of self. That alone is an illustration of mindfulness, or being in the present moment with all your senses active.

Ultimately, the most important thing is looking for a sense of significance. What impact are you creating? What ties you to your community? What role are you playing? Even if it’s just helping someone laugh or listening to a friend, that gives greater meaning in life. Our greatest sense of fulfilment comes from knowing that we are involved in something significant and that we are making a difference in the lives of others.

Happiness is not a fixed mental state, but rather a discipline that we develop imperfectly amid circumstances that are only partially our fault. Recognizing this will not guarantee a pleasant life, but it will put an end to the mistaken hope of endless happiness. Always remember that it is only by experiencing sadness that we can understand what it is to be truly happy.  

Words By: Victory Effiom