There is so much joy and wonder to be found in life and we spend most of it in education, at work, and making moves to progress financially (mostly), without seeking happiness, comfort. So, I want us all to change that. We are all going to embark on this journey, this adventure, this voyage that is happiness so that we can all lead rich, fulfilling lives.
In Old Norse, hap is the root of the word meaning luck/ chance, which is rather interesting considering the fact that happiness shouldn’t be associated with probability: it’s an emotion that should be cemented and experienced by us all. However, the extended history of the word demonstrates that humans have always amused themselves. The Ancient Egyptians and Chinese played board games for leisure whilst medieval nobles and peasants enjoyed story-telling—whether or not these people were actually happy is a mystery.
I can, however, speak for us in the 21st century. I think the reason happiness is fleeting for our generation is because our focuses have become more superficial. As humans, we are conditioned to take the easy route. The concept of working smart instead of hard was traced back to the Industrial era and was coined by Allen F. Morgenstern but human laziness has dated back to the Stone Age where cave people have chosen to eat tortoises instead of mammoths presumably because they are easier to catch, or that they didn’t go far from home even when supplies ran low. Through this, we’ve grown to seek pleasure, quick wins without the journey, the rollercoaster, the pursuit. Without truly embarking on the journey that is happiness. We seek pleasure because it’s a shortcut. So, we binge, we eat, we shop, we drop: to forget our worries. But this isn't happiness.
The first essential thing to do is to establish what happiness means to you—is it content, peace, satisfaction, care, gratitude? For me, it's all of these things. We’re all different and regardless of whether our happiness is centred around these things, these are healthy habits to incorporate into our humanity.
Life is...weird. It’s exciting, fun, eventful. And sometimes, just a bit messy. Things can go left. Things will never be stable. And depending on the circumstances, emotions can fluctuate. Now, this isn’t my way of saying suppress your feelings (always feel your feelings—it’s healthy and necessary) but seek out better and happier times. So:
Be grateful for the time.
The key to being truly happy is to be grateful for all that you have in your life—your job, your school, your food and shelter, your life. I was following the news story of a twelve year old boy who had been in a coma for around 4 months and sadly passed away after he was taken off life support. It got me thinking: life is short. Really short. And we don’t often consider what a blessing it is to be alive. Each day we get to wake up to see the sunrise, each breath we can take, each time we get to watch the sun extend its rays across the landscape as it sets, and the moon rises in its place—it’s a blessing. Be grateful to be here. And be grateful for all that you obtain in life. My mum always taught me that regardless of the situation I’m in, there’s always someone I have more than—that keeps me content with whatever I have materialistically.
I think in a world crafted by social norms, constructs, beauty standards and stereotypes, it’s often difficult to know what it is that you want; we’re more devoted to making others perceive us in a positive light as we hope that validation will grant happiness. And yes. To some extent, it does feel nice to be accepted, to feel part of the gang, to feel like you belong. You feel a sense of satisfaction that people like you. But I know from personal experience that those feelings fade. And you’ll find yourself constantly seeking validation. And that’s not healthy. And it won’t result in your happiness. You are your only priority. It’s your opinion that matters ultimately. And as hard as it may be, you need to push what other people think aside.
care for others and yourself.
You matter and other people matter too. If there’s one thing I know, it's that making other people feel good will, deep down, make you feel good. And caring for your well-being and success will bring a joyous feeling. So breathe, shop, eat, stretch: make yourself feel good, because you matter. We all do.
treasure that which truly matters.
I’ve had the “does money buy happiness” debate with many people, and whilst it ultimately comes down to what you derive happiness from, true happiness shouldn’t revolve around the constant desire for materialistic items. True happiness derives from those that aren’t going anywhere—our loved ones.
Two years ago in my English class, we had to study A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens as one of our texts (I really recommend you read this at Christmas time!). The story follows a misanthropic miser Scrooge who undergoes a metamorphosis over the course of Christmas Eve night by being shown his past, present and future by each time frame’s respective ghost. Bob Cratchit is Scrooge’s clerk and comes from an extremely impoverished family. Dickens cleverly crafts the Cratchits as the embodiment of extreme destitution, with the etymology of Cratchit being “a scratchy pen”: a misfortune tool that could be incredibly useful if only it were granted the right state and opportunity like other pens.
Despite their circumstances, they ate their insufficient meal contently, for they had each other. And whilst the Cratchits are largely hyperbolised, their willingness to hold onto each other keeps them happy in trying times. Their emotional wealth as a family kept them intact in the most difficult situations.
Make peace with your past.
There’s no point constantly dwelling on that which has happened—it won’t change anything. Rather, hold onto the lessons that it has taught; for experience is the best teacher. Know that you’re always growing, always improving and that should motivate you to keep trying. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Rather make the mistake and fail than not try at all.
Happiness is much more abstract than how I've discussed it and there’s no one way to be happy—we're all different people. But happiness is essential to conscientious living. And you can never just tell someone to be happy—the emotion is almost hormonal. Sometimes you feel good, other times, not so much. So, seek out what will leave you content. And, by all accounts, aim high. Work hard. Become wealthy. But seek completion first. Seek happiness. Seek inner peace. For that is the route to a truly rich life.