A few years ago, in a previous life in fact, I began to ask myself: what is happiness and why didn’t I feel happy? On paper I had everything you could wish for: a devoted husband and father to 4 gorgeous girls, a beautiful house… and yet I still felt the need to question. It really bugged me. I would look for answers in newspaper articles and in snatched conversations with people, but the more I delved, the more I realised that the question of: what is happiness, is like the elixir that many are searching for.
Now in my new life, so many things have changed and I would say that I feel incredibly happy. So what exactly is it that gives us the happy vibe? I know for certain that it isn’t having more money, or a bigger house. I also know that happiness is helped by good mental and physical health and that although less money doesn’t make you unhappy, money worries certainly do.
This is all very obvious.
What I am thinking about is the distinct states of happiness, in the same way that there are distinct states of love.
Do you remember the Love Is…comic strip? It was created by New Zealand cartoonist Kim Casali in the 1960’s. According to Wikipedia, the cartoons originated from a series of love notes that she drew for her future husband. In 1970, they appeared in strip form in a newspaper.
Each picture depicts a man and a woman with a caption of what love is. The most famous one says: “Love Is…being able to say you are sorry”
The cartoon breaks love down into single, tangible, reconnecting moments.
When you first meet someone who you are attracted to there are fireworks: the endorphins go haywire and you are basically drugged up with love. It is tangible, you can feel it, smell it and so can others: just by looking at you, they can see that you are in love. I equate this to that rush of happiness you feel when you are going on holiday: the anticipation and when you arrive at your destination and are heady with excitement. You can literally embrace your happiness.
Yet this euphoric state simply cannot last. At some point this crazy feeling of happiness or love settles in to a series of moments and feelings, such as are depicted in the Love Is… cartoon. A series of moments where each one makes you feel a rush of love, or indeed happiness, that may feel fleeting.
Yet it is these transient moments, I believe, that are subconsciously creating our overall state. It is often these moments that we capture in a photo and share with the world. Posting photos on Facebook of moments that capture our love or happiness and often both, somehow cements them. It catches them and makes them last longer than they really do.
This is why we say: live for the moment! Inhale those moments of happiness, take a photo, share the photo. Look at those photos again when you aren’t feeling so happy. Because those moments you captured are still within you. They have created something inside you that you cannot now touch or feel, but they are there having an effect on your well-being. Then, in moments of doubt, reconnect by finding time to make those feelings you can touch:
Happiness is…feeling the sun on your face for five minutes
Happiness is…a glass of wine and a weekend paper
Happiness is…a view
Happiness is…sitting and looking at the sea
Happiness and love don’t have to cost the earth and they are highly personal: this is the elixir. We don’t have to constantly be experiencing these feelings either, because being busy and being sad, for example, embellish our feelings of happiness. We must find time for these transient moments and then, even when we aren’t necessarily feeling the vibe, we know that it is somewhere under the surface, ready to be tapped in to.