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The Secret Of Happiness

28 September 2009 No Comment

Plenty of people claim to know the secret of happiness. They sell books about it, run seminars and some even get rich by revealing it. If I knew the secret to happiness then maybe even I could make a small fortune, catapulting this site to the top and making me famous.

As you probably guessed, I don’t have the secret to happiness. It’s not because I don’t know what it is but because there is no secret to happiness.

That’s right.

No secret.

“But what about all those gurus who claim to know what it is? Surely they must know something? After all people pay good money for their books, CD’s and workshops.”

I hate to be the one to tell you (don’t shoot the messenger, ok?) – but they are teaching you something you already know. They are packaging what we all possess and selling it back to you. They certainly know something, and it’s not the secret to happiness!

What is happiness?

I think it’s important to be really clear about this because I hear many people say their goal in life is to be happy or to achieve a state of happiness.

Happiness is ‘the state of being happy’, but what does that mean?

Happy is a feeling and conveys a wide range of emotional experiences including joy, contentment, elation, bliss and pleasure. We can feel many shades of happy, but we can’t be happy. This is important because if we’re striving for some permanent state of feeling happy we’ll never reach it. Best to recognise that right from the outset!

Realising that ‘happy’ is a feeling is incredibly liberating. Feelings come and go. It’s part of the human experience. To believe we can reach a state where we only feel one thing is to believe we can exclude all those other transitory emotions. It’s to believe we can become something less than human.

Feeling happy is wonderful. We all enjoy it and many of us would like to feel it more often. I think that’s what we mean when we say we’re searching for happiness. Not that we want to achieve some permanent happy high, but we want more of the feeling in our lives.

And there really is no secret to it.

Each of us has felt happy at times. We know what it feels like and we know the things that stimulate the feeling. We don’t need any secrets to be revealed. Every single one of us already knows how to feel happy.

Feeling ‘not-happy’

There are times for feeling happy and there are times for feeling something else that’s not-happy.

  • If I experience a loss in my life, that’s a time for mourning and feeling sad
  • If my safety is threatened, that’s a time for feeling afraid
  • If I make a mistake and someone gets hurt, that’s a time for feeling upset or ashamed
  • If I use up all my resources and need rest then that’s a time for feeling tired
  • Etc..

The point is that as we go through life there are things we do, things that happen to us that don’t fill our needs and there’s no place for feeling happy. It’s part of evolving, growing and living to feel the full range of human emotions. If we strive to reach ‘happiness’ then we miss out on that part of being human. We deny the other, less enjoyable, experiences.

When I’m feeling ‘not-happy’ I know I will feel happy again, but for now I want to honour the emotions that are alive and not try to deny them. They’re telling me something important as they’re clues to what’s missing right now – and they’re signals towards action I can take to change that. For the moment anyway. Not-happy will come back just as surely as happy.

Happy people

We often talk about ‘happy people’ and this can mean at least two different things. We can mean someone who has a propensity to feel happy often or someone who frequently expresses when they do feel it. These are related but not the same.

I have a ‘happy propensity’ when my inclination is to focus on the positive experiences in life. I actively seek out opportunities to feel happy and I attract the things that are good for me. There’s no secret to this either. It’s a choice, a decision I can make at any time. There’s nothing in the external world that can force me to choose this – it’s up to me. In the same way if I choose a negative outlook on life, that’s my decision too. It’s surely influenced by upbringing, by environment and maybe by genes – but I’m not a victim of these unless I choose to be.

I can also develop my skills at expressing the happy feeling at the times I’m experiencing it. I smile, laugh, take a particular tone of voice and describe things in a positive way. Expressing happiness is contagious. Again there’s no secret skill involved and we all know how to do it.

The 2 ‘non-secrets’ of feeling happy

If you want to feel happy more often you already know how to do it. There are basically two ways:

1   Do more of what makes you happy

You’ve doubtless discovered many activities, environments and people that fufil you in some way and bring about this feeling we call happy. Spend more time with the people you enjoy and seek the activities and environments that make you happy.

You know what those are, not me and you don’t need any guru to tell you what they are. We’re all different and so it’s not surprising that different things make us happy.

2   Discover new things that make you happy

Chances are you’ve not yet discovered all the things available in life that will make you happy. There’s experiences you’ve yet to have that will bring you to the temporary state we call happiness.

Seek them out, throw yourself into new experiences and enjoy the adventure of life.

And remember – there’s no magic secret waiting to be revealed to you. It’s already been revealed!

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