What is Happiness
[and how to be happy]
My pursuit of Happiness
I started my journey to find out more about Happiness in Scotland where I worked for mental health charities for over 20 years. I loved it. Even though my dream had been to be a psychologist, I quickly revised that when I saw the direct impact I could have on people through the work I was doing out in the community. What I liked most was that I could go and see people in their homes, in their own environment. I loved that I could spend quality time with people and really get to know them. Each hour was different, every person and their story unique.
What is Happiness in life?
What most people shared with me was this. When I asked them what they wanted, what their goals in life were, what recovery meant to them, almost all of the time they said: ‘I want to be happy.’
This started me on my journey to find out more about happiness and what that means to people. And you know, what people wanted in order to be happy wasn’t lots of money, or a big house or more material goods. They wanted to make connections, to build friendships and not feel so isolated. They wanted to find meaning and purpose. They wanted a reason to get up every morning. They wanted to be free of negative thoughts and limiting beliefs. They wanted to feel confident and have higher levels of self-esteem. Many said they wanted ‘peace and quiet and peace of mind’. All attainable. All possible. They just needed someone to support them, to believe in them and to work alongside them on their journey.
When I then moved to Germany, I was clear I still wanted to support women to transform themselves and their lives. It felt like such a natural continuation to become a Life Coach. I love the role of Happiness Evangelist to coach women all over the world to change their negative thinking, get clarity on what they want and to achieve their dreams.
What is a Happiness Evangelist?
A Happiness Evangelist is a person passionate about happiness. They are on a mission to show people how much of their happiness is within their control and to share the tools to build resilience and happiness.
What is real Happiness?
There are recurring themes around happiness that are universal, no matter where women join me from; meaningful connections, relationships, love, a sense of purpose, a feeling of balance (inner and outer), feeling calm, a realisation that materialism isn’t the sole answer, health is important, goal setting, support, joy and resilience. And month on month, year on year, my group and I attract more and more women seeking a more balanced, healthy and joyful life.
What I have seen first-hand over the past 4 decades is backed up by research. Now, more than ever, we need to find the tools and support to feel happier. The World Happiness Report, funded by the UN, shows that despite higher standards of living, Americans report that they are unhappier now than they were 20-30 years ago. This is also reflected in the increased use of prescriptions for antidepressants. The CDC has reported that there was a 65% increase in the use of antidepressants during a time frame of 15 years. And in 2020 during the first year of the Corona pandemic, one third of American’s report feelings of anxiety, depression and stress.
Can money buy Happiness?
Of course, money is essential for living and we need and want some material goods in our life. But that is insufficient. And hundreds of research studies in most countries in the world support this. Money buys some happiness and research has shown a positive relationship between money and well-being: better physical health, better academic success, less stressful life events and better mental health. When we are financially poor, money equates more to joy but as we grow richer, that reduces. Kahneman and Deaton calculated in 2010 that the amount of money we need to earn before its correlation with happiness diminishes is only $75,000. Let’s not forget that not all requires money.
We know from research that money isn’t the only thing that makes people happy. Happiness comes more from internal feeling than from external material possessions. Action for Happiness did some research into what makes people happy and found that there are 10 keys including relationships and connection, meaning and purpose, exercise, doing things for others and resilience.
And although a state of happiness is subjective and differs from person to person, the good news is that you can increase your own personal level. This is why I have created the Intentional Happiness Circle, a year-long course to support you achieve and maintain happiness. How to be Intentionally Happy.
The ripple effect of Happiness
There is plenty of evidence that being happy is good for you. Apart from the obvious that feeling happy feels good, research shows that it has physical and psychological health benefits, promotes career success and benefits social connections. And it has a ripple effect. When you are happy, living the life you want you feel positive and purposeful. You feel balanced and calm, excited and anticipating great things. All this affects those around you. Your partner, children, friends and colleagues all benefit. As do those in your outer circle - neighbours, store workers, the bus driver and other complete strangers you encounter.
When you radiate happiness, you touch many lives, known and unknown. And there is a ripple effect on yourself. Research shows that happiness adds years to your life. You feel more joy every day and in what you do, you have better career success, deeper and more fulfilling relationships and much more.
Slowing down the hedonic treadmill
People are now also realising that happiness is more of an internal feeling rather than a result of owning more stuff. We’ve all experienced the relative short-lived joy after some retail therapy. This quick feeling then falls back to our set-point. Research shows that we all have our individual happiness set-point that we return to once that fleeting feeling of increased joy fades. This reversal back to a set-point level has been named the Hedonic Adaptation, or Hedonic Treadmill. It basically means that we have to continually seek out new stuff, often by buying more things, in order to lift our happiness levels.
Hedonic Adaptation is what makes humans so adaptable to difficult situations, which is very useful to us. But it also means that positive events quickly become the new ‘normal’. Some say that the pursuit of happiness is like being on a treadmill, that you constantly have to feed yourself with positive emotions to stay happy.
Research by Positive Psychologist, Sonja Lyubomirsky, shows that everyone’s happiness set-point is about 50% genetic and 10% circumstantial. Most importantly though, 40% of this set-point is influenced by our thoughts, actions and attitudes. The default happiness set-point is also shown as being above neutral, so leaning towards being positive. This is a great starting point for us!
When talking about happiness, people often interchange the words happiness and contentment. When I ask what happiness is, a high percentage of people say contentment as well as peace, balance, and joy.
Contentment is defined as a long-lasting emotional state of feeling satisfied with your life. It means you are grateful for and appreciative of all that you have in the present moment.
Happiness is described more as a feeling that is perceived to be more fleeting. Many people still place emphasis on external circumstances and material goods in order to feel happy and that is why we feel that short-term happiness. However, people are now realising that happiness is more of an internal feeling rather than a result of owning more stuff. We have all experienced relative short-lived happiness after some retail therapy. This means that we have to continually seek out new stuff, often by buying more things, in order to lift our happiness levels. This is known as the hedonic treadmill. Working on our inner happiness is what brings long-lasting happiness.
I believe that you can be content but not happy. Contentment can be a positive state but for some, it can also mean an acceptance of one's situation and in that sense, it can have the connotation of settling for something that falls short of what you could reach for. It seems less positive than happiness. I remember for a long time, I felt content and satisfied with my life. I had lots of friends and a great social life and a job that gave me so much fulfillment and meaning. I had been working so hard on my inner transformation yet I felt something was missing and I didn't feel truly happy without a loving relationship.
It means that your happiness level is not set in stone and that can actively be pursued. We can increase our happiness set-point and use some tools to slow down the hedonic adaptation and intentionally cultivate happiness in our lives.
Happiness is important to people across the world. In many cultures, we have traditionally been told that money and materialism will make us happy. What we do know is that those things give us short-term, fleeting happiness. What we want to do is create long-lasting happiness that is intentional and resilient.
What that looks like varies from person to person and is very subjective. I’m all about creating a tool kit of authentic happiness. The resources we need at different points of the day, the week, the year. Your toolkit may include such things as a gratitude practice, meditation, journaling, exercise or reading.
Definition of Happiness
People often think I live in some kind of happiness bubble. That I’m happy and smiling all the time. I smile a lot. And I’m a happy and positive person. But I’m also human. And life happens, even to Life Coaches! I have days when I feel hurt, or angry or disappointed. Where I catch myself having negative thoughts or ruminating on something someone said. Or finding myself spiraling down with a negative thought.
For me, happiness is having resilience and finding balance in my life. It is finding joy each day.
What is Happiness?
Happiness isn’t feeling happy minute to minute but is instead an overall feeling of joy and contentment with life and feeling love and respect for yourself. Happiness is feeling calm and balanced and being resilient in order to bounce back from hard times.
Happiness for me is that I have a core inner strength, a resilience that means that I can bounce back from tough times. That I can feel negative emotions and have negative thoughts but can pull myself back quickly. I have learned the tools that build and maintain my resilience and that I can access when I need them or use them every day.
I truly believe we can cultivate happiness. That it’s not a fixed point. That by taking intentional and proactive action you can nurture and grow your happiness as well as maintain it, just like a garden. You need good foundations, a clear vision, and a plan for what it should look like. And you must do a little every day to maintain and grow it.
If you want to get your Happiness back or search the ultimate, real Happiness, here are my top areas to find the Intentional Happiness.
How to find Happiness?
- Visualization & Clarity
- Goal Setting
- Knowing Your Values
- Time Management
- No Zero Days
- Comfort Zone
- Finding balance
Visualization & Clarity
In order to achieve the life that you want, it is necessary to know what you want , what is important to you and be clear on the life you wish to lead.
What takes our dreams and makes them a reality? Setting realistic and attainable goals. Having a plan to follow that will take you forward in what you want to achieve. It is important to plan intrinsic goals as well as extrinsic goals. And don’t forget to plan in some fun goals too!
Knowing Your Values
Knowing your values and aligning your goals with them will lead to more fulfilment and happiness.
Life feels really busy and it can be difficult to create the space or the headspace to focus on what is important. Employing time management skills and tracking your time can help find that time required to get intentional about your happiness.
Decluttering your physical space, your digital space and how you spend your time is fundamental in freeing up time and space to fulfil your potential and feel truly happy.
We can often be held back from living the life we want to lead because of procrastination. We procrastinate for many reasons so getting behind what's really going on and getting unstuck and more focused helps us move forward towards what we want to achieve.
No Zero Days
A wonderful concept to beat procrastination and get motivated. Doing a little every day towards your goals creates momentum.
It’s so easy to stay in our comfort zone. Even if it’s not the life we want to lead, it can feel more comfortable. But change doesn’t happen inside our comfort zone so we need to find ways to expand our comfort zone and become more confident and happier.
This is a fundamental part of happiness. Working not only on outer balance (work/life balance) but our internal balance too.
Living an authentic life as your authentic self will lead to a happy life. Living with integrity is when what you think, what you say and what you do all match up.
An essential part of the happiness journey is to have people to keep you accountable. That is why I feel it is vital to have the Circle. To bring women together to go on this journey together for support and to keep accountable.
Focusing on what we have in our lives and not taking it for granted is one of the keys to happiness. Cultivating an attitude of gratitude and making it a habit is well researched to significantly increase our feelings of happiness.
Here are some of my favourite Happiness quotes.
“Consciously and deliberately choose to pursue an Intentionally Happy Life. Be proactive, not reactive, and cultivate a life of joy and fulfillment.” Julie Leonard
“Happiness is not something readymade. It comes from your own actions.” Dalai Lama
“Happiness is enjoying the little things in life.” Anonimous
“Happiness is the new rich. Inner peace is the new success. Health is the new wealth. Kindness is the new cool.” Syed Balkhi
“If you want to be happy, be.” Leo Tolstoy
“The key to being happy is knowing you have the power to choose what to accept and what to let go.” Dodinsky
“Whatever you decide make sure it makes you happy” Paulo Coelho