A friend once defined happiness as the “absence of unhappiness.” How sad, I thought, to define happiness as the absence, rather than the presence, of something.
Another negative definition: I don’t think happiness is that crazy dance you see on television commercials when someone buys a new car or discovers they get free shipping with whatever they bought on-line. That’s some kind of adrenaline-fueled moment that is a fleeting as it is intense, and, once it’s gone, leaves you feeling drained and empty.
The question remains: what is “happiness?” Is it like art – you know it when you feel it? Maybe.
Here is my attempt to understand it.
Happiness entails contentment, which is not the same as complacency. Complacency is a “Yah, whatever” mentality. Contentment is more of an acceptance of who and what you are. Of being able to live with your strengths and your weaknesses. And because of that acceptance – because of your strengths and in spite of your weaknesses – you go out and do the best you can, perhaps even better than you thought you could. Perhaps even discover that there is strength in your weakness, as contradictory as that may sound.
Happiness entails hope. Hope is what keeps us going from day to day. It gives us the courage and strength to keep on trying and striving. It is a realistic hope; you know utopia will never be achieved but, by trying once more, you hope that you can help to make the world a slightly better place for one person, for one place, for one community.
Happiness is outward-looking. It’s that feeling you get when you put a smile on someone else’s face; when you provide a shoulder for someone to cry on; when you lend an ear so a person’s sorrow or frustration; when you “pay forward” a favour. It’s when you empathize with someone else’s situation. When you’ve helped someone through a difficult time. When you rejoice with them about their own happiness.
Happiness entails connection with community, however you define that, be it family, friends or an organization. Ask any volunteer. When you are part of something bigger than yourself, you realize you are not alone, come what may. You are there for other people, and other people are there for you. Because of that, you can face anything.
Now, it’s your turn. How do you define happiness?
#Happiness #Hope #Connection #Contentment #Empathy #MargaretGHanna #Contemplation