The Problem With Happiness

Have you ever heard yourself say, “Once I get a new job, then I will be happy”? Or maybe you said, “Once I lose 10 pounds I will be happy.” Or, a common one in my life has always been, “Moving to a new city will make me happy.” Even more common among a lot of women is, “A husband, boyfriend, relationship will make me happy.”

If this sounds like you, then keep reading.

Riding my bike home today, pretty much every single one of these thoughts crossed my mind. I am bored at work, sick of my shoebox apartment and sick of being lonely in such a big, big, BIG city. Did I mention it’s big? Well, I have about a 30-minute bike ride, so the thoughts didn’t end there.

I noticed a common factor in every single one of those thoughts. I rely on an outside circumstance to MAKE me feel happiness. I rely on my job to bring my life purpose; I rely on my weight to make me feel confident and joyful; I rely on the city I live in to make me feel adventurous; and, I rely on my relationships to make me feel complete. To me all of these things equal happiness; but I have failed to realize a tiny little fact….

Happiness comes from within. It is a feeling. Outside forces cannot create the happiness; you must create it.

This is where many of us fall off the bandwagon. We go out and search for things to make us happy. We believe we are, “creating our own happiness.” When really, we are creating outside situations that are supposed to affect our inward feelings. When sad, most of us turn to food, a surefire way to create instant gratification. Or, we turn to a second job for more money. We often also turn to alcohol (it’s called happy hour for a reason). A lot of us also turn to relationships, thinking another human being will bring joy, pleasure and love into our life.

In my bright, long and wise years (that’s a joke, just go with me on this) I have come to realize that outside forces are NOT what bring happiness.

Unfortunately, or fortunately (I really cannot decide), happiness must come from WITHIN. Yes, it is something we need to decide to be. I say unfortunately because in all honestly this is a lot more difficult than finding something else to make us happy.

When you choose to be happy it is a conscious decision to find joy in every situation. Sure, you might live in a shoebox apartment with no dating life whatsoever. You might dip into your savings account every month to get by, and you might not have any family within driving distance. But, does that mean you cannot be happy? HECK. NO.

What is happiness? Well, according to PBS (yes I looked at PBS), “Happiness is thought of as the good life, freedom from suffering, flourishing, well-being, joy, prosperity and pleasure.” Nowhere does the description say, “Happiness is lot’s of money, a relationship and an exciting life.” No one and nothing can determine your happiness except you.

If you are saying to the invisible me as you read your computer screen, “Well how come some people always seem so happy then? What are they doing that I am not?” I would tell you, “I really don’t know.” I am generally not a happy and joyful person.

My parents and some of my previous employers would probably back me up on this. My parents would tell you they never know if I am excited or not; my previous bosses would tell you that they thought I hated my job so much I was going to quit after my first year. In all honesty, I think some people are just better at being happy than others. Just like some people have blue eyes and some people have brown, some people are born with an innate sense to create joy out of their life and bring it to those around them while others struggle to create that same happiness.

Don’t get depressed or angry over this! I am not done.

Think about a time when you were happy. What were you doing? Were you spending time with family? Were you on a mission trip? Were you writing a really awesome blog post? Think about those emotions. Now, imagine a time when you were doing those things and you weren’t happy. What was different? Chances are it wasn’t the situation; it was your feelings.

See what I mean? Happiness is based on no one, and nothing, other than you. If circumstances were the only indicator of happiness then we should all be extremely happy all the time, because someone else is bound to be ecstatic in our situation.

That being said, next time you feel down, grumpy, depressed, mad or self-loathing take a second to really study that emotion. Ask yourself WHY you are feeling sad. Ask yourself what was different from today than yesterday. Do you need to adjust your attitude? Do you need to give back more? Do you need to go to God with your anguish and troubles? (I definitely recommend the last one). Then find something to be happy about. There is always something to be happy about in every situation.

I am not discounting sadness, because there are going to be moments of heartbreak, pain and sorrow. But, what I am discounting is chronic unhappiness and our belief that different circumstances will “create” happiness in us. We are so quick to look at everything around us as the problem without really taking the time to look inward. We can choose to be happy in all circumstances; we just have to find the will to dig deep and refuse to blame the situation. If we constantly are searching for something, or someone, else to make us happy, then we will forever be left wanting more.

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