So You're Pretty Happy...Now What?

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A friend recently told me that she looks at the stuff I write, but because she is generally happy, she doesn’t really need what I write about. She is already happy so being happier isn’t anything she thinks about.

This got me thinking that maybe there are others out there that think the same thing. Others that I have unintendedly left out of my circle due to how I am using the word Happiness.

Let me provide some context on what I do and don’t mean when I am talking about happiness.

First, happiness as we generally define it includes feeling good, feeling joy, being amused or in awe of something. It encompasses experiencing things that are pleasant, from a beautiful sunset to getting a promotion to enjoying a really, really good Bundt cake. It includes just having fun.

Second, happiness is a part of life but doesn’t define a full, meaningful and purposeful life. I don’t use the word ‘happiness’ to imply that that is all there is in life. It is a part of what a good life includes, but is not the entirety of a good life.

Third, happiness is a fleeting state of being. It is not a state that can be sustained all the time nor should you try to sustain all the time. Happy feelings take energy and shift the body out of its preferred state of balance, homeostasis. Therefore, happiness by definition is not sustainable.

Many studies have shown that experiencing positive emotions, or happiness, is a good thing and necessary to live a good life. However, it is only one component of an optimal and meaningful life.

In fact, one study tracked a cohort of people over 15 years measuring income and happiness. The results showed that happiness did increase to a certain income level, about $75,000/year, after that happiness stayed the same as income increased. This shows that happiness is more complex than just money and the good feelings that come with it.

Positive Psychology has shown that having and leading an optimal and meaningful life brings more satisfaction and positive emotions. They have gone farther and identified the 5 key elements to an optimal and meaningful life:

Spiritual Connection – Having a sense of a bigger purpose and connection to something larger than the self.

Physical Wellbeing – Taking care of one’s self as it relates to exercise, nutrition and sleep among other things.

Intellectual Connection – Being curious, interested and engaged with something on a cerebral level.

Relational Connection – Having positive relationships with yourself and others. A sense of connection to others.

Emotional Connection – Being able to experience ALL emotions, not just the positive ones.

You’ll notice that these form an acronym, S.P.I.R.E, an easy way to remember the elements and a great visual to aspire to. Think about creating your life so that it is the pinnacle, the highest point of a good life.

You’ll also notice that ‘happiness’ in the context of positive emotions and feeling good is contained in the Emotional element. However, happiness is not the only emotion captured here. Emotional Connection is the ability to recognize and experience ALL emotions, the good, the not so good and the really, really not so good. It is not limited to just feeling ‘happy.’

So when I use the term ‘happiness’ in my writings, I am implying the positive emotions that we generally associate with happiness AND the broader context of leading an optimal and meaningful life.

For all of you out there that are ‘happy,’ awesome! Good for you! Now ask yourself if you could be living a deeper more optimal and meaningful life. If the answer to that is ‘yes’ then my writings are for you.

Here is one simple way to think about each day that will help achieve more balance in your S.P.I.R.E. Ask yourself this question each morning and think about the response in the S.P.I.R.E. elements:

‘If everything goes as well as it possibly can today, what will that look like?’

As you begin to think about Happiness in this broader context, I am confident that you will find other areas of your life that could use some love and attention.