I have been thinking a lot about happiness lately and plan on doing my own Happiness Project starting on January 1st. I have come to a few realizations about happiness. H.A.L.T. is an acronym used by those fighting addiction to remind them to take care of their physical and emotional needs before seeking outside remedies. They are told to ask, “Am I hungry, angry, lonely or tired?” because these are causes for seeking a cure for the negative feeling which is often detrimental to recovery. I think this acronym is useful for those of us seeking a life with more happiness developed by the creation of habits and a life designed to support what we want and need to feel happiness. Happiness is a feeling individual and specific to each of us, and must be cultivated. Often in the retrospective age of 50+ we begin to reflect on life’s real importance, but I believe that bits of this insight can be achieved by those young adults willing to slow down and unplug long enough to allow themselves to get to know themselves and their feelings and desires. Doing so could possibly provide a more satisfying life and certainly could lead to more happiness.
Happiness is not dependent on food, although it is easier to be happy when you are not hungry. The amount, or category of food is not the key to happiness, though I have read research related to chocolate having certain qualities that release the “happiness” hormone serotonin. Eating with friends and family is the experience that creates the feeling of happiness through the sharing of conversation, appreciating the food and slowing down to enjoy quality time with those we love. Eating alone can also bring happiness allowing for a calm respite during a chaotic day, the appreciation of the qualities of the food (taste, texture, color) and time to rest from external conversation.
Happiness is not dependent on the external actions of others, it is the way we process and handle the actions, that allow us to maintain our feelings of happiness, and to avoid being sucked into feelings of anger. It is possible to be disappointed, sad and angry and then to transform the energy of those feelings, through determination, and use the energy to fuel happiness. We have to make choices in our lives and if we are harboring people in our lives that continually provide us with actions that disappoint, it is up to us to release these people from our lives, or to accept them with these qualities known. Ultimately though, it is our choice to be happy.
Happiness is not dependent on external forces, in other words, it’s not the “stuff” that creates happiness, although the process of acquiring “stuff” might be a fun and happy experience, i.e. shopping. It is more likely the combination of spending time surrounded by people, either friends, or those also spending some happy time at the mall. How often have I arrived at home with my purchases and had buyer’s remorse, second thoughts and then returned the items? Malls were created to provide the sense of community that has been lost in the expansion of our society and the isolation we often feel in our busy lives and the mall is the new town center complete with options for all of the senses. The experience of shopping, or even just going to the mall, is the instigator for happiness, not the actual purchase.
Happiness is not dependent on relaxation and pampering ourselves because it is an internal feeling. I think a day at the spa is wonderful and one of my favorite experiences of relaxation and pampering, but it does not equate with long-term happiness. It is a temporary, “feel good” happiness. Short-term happiness derived from haircuts, manicures and massages are valuable and there is a lot of research about the value of touch therapy. I have utilized it myself during particularly trying times and still indulge occasionally, but happiness is not dependent on it. Happiness is dependent on the body’s physical state to a certain extent and that is why it is important to be physically rested. When we operate on sleep-depravation, it is challenging to be upbeat and happy. We are most likely craving the ability to just lie down and go to sleep.
The acronym H.A.L.T., though originated for those fighting addiction, can be useful for those of us seeking happiness as well, for while we can fairly easily point out what happiness is not dependent on, and how to avoid the pitfalls of false happiness, in doing so, the mystery to happiness is revealed. Happiness is self-dependent and within and the key to it is held by each of us, the choice to use it is ours. Unlocking our own happiness is a life choice that can lead to the creation of more happiness and the realization of what we want in our lives.