Today, 20th March, is the UN International Day of Happiness. But can you create happiness by deliberate acts? And what happens if you don’t feel happy?
Psychologists have researched many ways to increase individual levels of happiness, community happiness and create a happier society. Indeed, Action for Happiness, run their own 8-week course on Exploring what Matters to help individuals understand these different levels and encourage us all to take some action in anyone of those areas.
But what is happiness?
Happiness is a fleeting, positive emotion. I like to use the analogy of a rainbow… there are times when you see it, there are times when you feel it but you cannot really touch it. To experience happiness you need to also experience sadness and a whole spectrum of emotions in between; to see a rainbow there needs to be both sunshine AND rain. So, today, the #internationaldayofhappiness please don’t feel compelled to be happy, just notice how you are feeling.
Having studied positive psychology for the past two years I have become increasingly aware that the media’s view of creating happiness is not the same as an individuals reality. We might think the new car, the bigger TV, the flash clothes will bring us happiness. And to be fair, for a short while they do. But not a meaningful type of happiness. When we buy these material things, we experience hedonic adaptation… that is our spike of happiness soon fades and we return to our previous normal way of being and feeling. To get the next spike of positive emotions it often needs to be an even flashier car, even bigger TV or more expensive clothes.
So what does bring happiness?
Living a meaningful life (defined by what you consider to be meaningful) is one way as that creates what psychologists call eudaimonic happiness.
I prefer a mix of both hedonic and eudaimonic happiness…
…by doing what I love, giving to others through volunteering activities, walking my springer spaniel and my own hedonic pleasure which comes in the form of 85% dark chocolate!