An alarmingly common question that people ask me once they know of my profession is, “Is anyone happy?” It’s almost like they’re looking for validation or hope to know that happiness is out there. That maybe, if they try hard enough, or wait long enough, they will finally be happy.

Before I continue, I think it’s important to understand that psychologists describe happiness as a state of mind. Focus on state. It is a temporary feeling that you need to work on to prolong. More permanent positive feelings come from life satisfaction, a sense of well being and purpose.

There are many different theories of happiness, but they generally fall into one of two categories based on how they conceptualize happiness (or well-being):

Hedonic happiness is based on subjective well being and the experience of more pleasure than pain. There is a cognitive component involving self evaluation of how good your life is dependent on the aforementioned.

Eudaimonic happiness or psychological well being looks at happiness as a by product of having a life full of purpose, meaning and growth. This concept of happiness depends on development of individual strengths and virtues as opposed to the pursuit of pleasure.

Really quick tangent:

Our mind can be divided into three parts: Id, Ego and Superego. Think of it like Id is the child, always looking for pleasure and fun. Superego is like the priest, teaching us morals and values. And Ego, the most important of all, is the parent whose trying to balance both. Now more often than not, we fall prey to the child; focusing on instant gratification and seeking pleasure in the moment.

Now my aim in being all preachy about theories of happiness was to help you understand how there are subcategories within the realm of happiness. As mentioned above, happiness is a state of mind. And given it’s impermanent nature, hedonic happiness, passes us by quite quickly. Add a negative bias and life’s daily up and downs, we end up focusing on all things that are not giving us pleasure, tipping the balance towards negative affect. This usually leads us to evaluate that life is NOT good.

Which, more often than not, leads us to chase ideals that we think will make us happy but nothing lasts forever. That in turn takes us back to ground zero, and the most pertinent question, “Is anyone Happy?”

Coming back to the less popular concept of happiness, the one governed by having a purpose and nurturing growth, can be really what saves us. Reflecting upon life and nurturing growth leads to a more permanent sense of well being. This positive feeling seems to overshadow the turbulence of daily road bumps of pleasure and pain.

What gives you purpose?

Personally, I believe self awareness and introspection help in finding meaning. A moment of stillness to look through the noise and chaos in life. De-cluttering, and cleaning up all the dusty corners in your space, metaphorically and literally.

What is something that you have always wanted to do? What has stopped you? Is there anything you can do to change it? It’s always small steps. Baby steps leading to big steps; all moving towards what will bring about a more permanent feeling of happiness in your life.