Recent posts (like Noemi's) have led me to ponder the concept of happiness. What does it mean to be happy? Am I actually happy? Is happiness even a worthy goal?
I know what happiness is NOT---its not the inevitable result of achieving your most wanted life goals. It doesn't require that everything be perfect. Its not even the absence of sadness or negative feelings. I think happiness can co-exist with sadness. It can remain despite things going wrong, even big things. You don't have to have "arrived" before you are happy, it can be part of the journey.
So yes, I am happy. More or less. Most of the time. I feel sad sometimes, angry, lonely, but fundamentally I am grateful for my life and the opportunities I have to be useful and do something meaningful---even if in a very small-scale way. I could be better at appreciating things in the day to day, but I'm optimistic that I can learn that. No, things are far from perfect. I'm working on making some things better, and accepting other things the way they are and I'm trying to learn which things go in which category.
Focusing too much on happiness can be detrimental. Beating yourself up & feeling guilty for not feeling "happy enough" is...well its ridiculous, and defeating, and sort of the opposite of the point, right? Accepting that positive and negative feelings are a universal and healthy part of the human experience (even if there isn't always a great "reason" for those feelings) takes a lot of pressure off.
Spending energy you barely have and adding more things to your plate because some "expert" claims it'll make you happier could have the exact opposite effect. Sure, meditate/volunteer/do yoga/journal for a week or two to see if it helps you---these things really do work for lots of people. But if carving out the time and energy to do that is stressing you out, because you really are stretched too thin at this season in life---cut yourself some slack and take a nap instead.
On the other hand, doing what you need to do to relieve stress and feel better can have positive outcomes beyond your own mood. You probably will be more focused at work & act nicer to your kids and spouse. Its certainly good for your blood pressure. A happier/calmer attitude can be contagious---as is a stressed out & negative mood. For me the essentials in this category are: sleep, exercise, and time to myself. Specifically: lots of sleep, a moderate amount of exercise, and (at least) a minimal amount of time to myself every weekend/holiday (i.e. no time in my office at work) day.
How do you define happiness? Are you happy? What do you think about the "happiness" as a life goal?