Interesting question, isn't it? What's the first thing that comes to your mind if someone were to ask you that? Would you immediately reply with a yes, or would you pause to assess your current mood? Or would you assess your general state of mind, and judge your happiness based on whether you are measuring up to your (or society's expectations)?
If you were to ask an unemployed graduate if they were happy, what would you expect their response to be? If you were to ask a lady who is single in her thirties that same question, do you expect her to say yes? If you asked a couple who have been married for five years and are still waiting for children "are you happy?" what do you expect their response would be?
I gave that last example for a reason. Someone asked me if I felt sad during the five years of my marriage before I had children, She was genuinely shocked when I said, no I didn't feel sad at all. In fact I was very happy whether I had children or not. She couldn't believe it. She asked me, how did you manage? How could you be happy when something was clearly missing from your life? I told her that my happiness didn't depend on whether I was a mother. My children are here now, and I love them dearly and they do bring me joy. But they are NOT responsible for my happiness.
Human beings in general, learn to postpone our happiness. We think that we will be happy when something in the future occurs. Or when someone else does something to please us. We're always looking ahead as if the happiness we seek is just out of reach, and if only we could grab it, then we will be happy forever, But this is not true. As individuals, we are the ones actually responsible for our own happiness. Real, lasting, happiness is not something that comes from other people, or from possessions, achievements or events, even if they are pleasant. Happiness is a choice, and it comes from within.
I have heard a theory (I can't remember where now) about default happiness level. Apparently each of us has a general level of happiness where we operate. Some people have very high levels such that they seem happy all the time even in the most difficult situations. Some people have low levels, so they seem sad or miserable all the time, regardless of their circumstances.
Events may occur to change your happiness level at a given point in time. Say for example, you finally got that dream job you have been applying for. Of course, your happiness levels will go up. You will be excited, you will be thrilled, you will be proud of your accomplishments, etc. You may even enjoy the benefits that come from the job. But soon, you settle into the job, it fits into your life, and you may even experience that the job comes with new challenges. Given time, your happiness will gradually return to its default level. So the new job gave you a temporary boost in happiness but that won't keep you happy all the time.
Another example is when you get married. Prior to that, perhaps you had been thinking that getting married would solve all your problems and you would finally be happy! So you throw yourself into wedding planning, enjoy all the excitement of being a bride or groom and then the fun of being a newly-wed. But at some point, your life returns to normal, you adjust to your new status, and guess what? Your happiness goes back to its default level.
Third example: you are about to become a first-time mother. This is great news, of course and you are happy. You look forward to the arrival of your baby, you dream about motherhood, you start making plans. You finally get to the end of the waiting period and have your baby! Of course you'll be happy, for it is an awesome experience to become a mother (or father). But guess what? Your happiness level will go up temporarily but will soon come back to their default level.
There are many more examples I could give, such as when you finally go on that dream holiday, or you buy your first brand new car, or you tick a big achievement off your bucket list.
I've heard that even lottery winners experience this. One minute, they are delighted with the news that they've won millions of money. They think they will now finally be happy! But they too are surprised to learn that after the initial euphoria wears off, they are not necessarily happier than they were before the money. They are just richer.
So how do we learn to live a life that is happy regardless of our circumstances? We have to differentiate between events that bring temporary happiness and things that produce long lasting happiness. Then invest more of our time in things that bring lasting happiness, such as a good relationship with God, and with family and friends.
There are some fundamental things that make me happy:
1) I am alive
2) Everyday I am alive for a reason and a purpose
3) I was created for this time and purpose by a wonderful God and Heavenly Father
4) My Heavenly Father loves me 1000% completely, totally, unconditionally. I will never be able to fully understand that love, or exhaust it. He knows me from the inside out, He knows my flaws, my weaknesses, my bad habits, my imperfections, yet He loves me anyway. Such love is empowering and makes me secure.
5) Not only does He love me, He demonstrates this love too! He wants to have a relationship with me, He wants to help me, He cares about every detail of my life and He wants nothing but the absolute VERY best for me. He calls me His precious daughter!
6) I have friends and family that love me and support me.
Those are my happiness parameters. Once those are in place, my happiness is firmly secure. Those are the things that can't change according to the weather, or the economic situation, or the bad news on the TV, or whether I have enough money to pay my bills this month.
So, stop waiting and hoping that something will come along to make you happy one day. No! Decide for yourself now that you are going to be happy. Look into the mirror and affirm yourself. Choose to do things that improve your positive outlook. Encourage yourself by looking at how far you've come and declaring that your future is bright. Soon enough your feelings will catch up with your actions.
(c) Tolulope Popoola
PS: I know it's been a while.