What Happiness Really Means

When you hear the word “happiness,” what comes to mind? Many people think happiness is about belly laughter, euphoric thrills, and feelings of joy mixed with boundless energy. While these things certainly contribute to happiness, they’re not what people should be focusing on for long-term fulfillment.

What is important is how frequently, not how intensely, you are happy. For example, winning the jackpot in Las Vegas, the thrill of the quadruple loop roller coaster, or belly laughing at the Saturday night comedy club show are wonderful moments. But they are not the hallmarks of sustainable long-term happiness.

In truth, real happiness comes from being content most of the time. This occurs when you have thoughts and feelings of well-being and an inner sense of balance and purpose. In other words, happiness comes from within, not from external experiences.

Good news such as getting a promotion or winning a prize prompts happiness for a while. Then we adapt. Bad news such as ending a relationship or losing a job brings sadness for a while. Then we adapt. Adaptation explains why people can be happy after physically disabling accidents and tragedies.

If you truly want to be happy, you need to make happiness a priority. Here is a simple procedure to do that. Write the words, “I intend to be happy today,” on a piece of paper and stick it on the bathroom mirror. When you look at it in the morning, stop and reflect. Ask yourself, “What can I be happy about today?” Vary your answers every day for a week.

Posting the note and taking time to reflect will remind you to be grateful during your day for that which contributes to happiness—be it joking with a co-worker, stopping to gaze and smell the splendor of a flower, drinking your favorite cup of coffee, or spending a special moment with a child.

Happiness hides in life’s small details. If you’re not looking, you will not see them.

Tip: You have a responsibility to yourself to think and participate in those activities that bring you a fulfilled life, one that brings you happiness. As Robert Louis Stevenson, the Scottish-American writer, wrote, “There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy.”