What does happiness really mean?

I think that it’s pretty safe to say we all want happiness. So much so, the American constitution lists pursuit of happiness as one of the three inalienable rights. What does happiness mean exactly though? Is it possible to universally define it?

Of course, I can’t speak for everyone, but I feel like I’m getting closer to a more tangible definition of happiness. In my mind, the simplest way to describe happiness is being in a state of awe. Further, I think the best way to illustrate my point is using children as an example, and since we all were children at some point this analogy should be universally relatable … I hope?

Infants never get tired of peekaboo, and toddlers love to put everything in their mouths. So typical … and yet we can’t help ourselves but smile every time we see children being at awe with the world. Could it be because it’s something we very much miss in our lives?

But then a logical counter might be: yes, children can afford to be in a state of awe precisely because they have parents who do the necessary worrying on their behalf. In other words, somebody has to protect them from the worrying until such a day when the child grows up and is ready to take on the “adult life.”

Is happiness a luxury then? Something provided by others or done after enough walls have been erected to protect from disappointment?

I can fully empathize with this view as it was mine for a long time. Now, however, I am a firm believer in what you focus on grows. More specifically, when I was focused on assuring predictability in my life by following checklists, I became obsessed with setbacks and rarely gave myself permission to celebrate successes. I was flooded with judgmental thoughts, both when it came to myself as well as others.

As of fairly recently, my self-compassion enablers such as prayer, meditation, yoga kicked in and created multiple cracks in my expectation tunnel vision through which the enlightening rays of awe have snuck in. For instance, since my thoughts are increasingly less often stuck in the past regrets or future expectations, it’s easier to notice the cool breeze on my face, remove guilt for being in love and take time to spark a genuine connection.

In short, I am much happier now, because I moved my focus away from controlling my surroundings to allowing my surroundings to awe me.

So how happy are you? What would inviting more awe do to your life?


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