Happiness can be difficult to catch and even harder to hold onto. But happiness is also the reason we get out of bed each morning and keep chasing our goals. We can feel it when we listen to a beautiful piece of music or finish a long, hard run. It can sustain you through difficult times and make the highs feel even higher.
But what is happiness exactly? Well, that depends on who you ask. Even psychologists can’t seem to get their definitions to line up. We like to define happiness as the kind of contentment that is maintained even in the face of life’s petty annoyances and changing circumstances. Happiness isn’t dependent on achievement or success, it’s about feeling a sense of harmony and satisfaction in the moment.
If you’re finding happiness hard to come by, take a look at the hidden sponges that could be soaking it up from your life.
1. You’re chasing a superficial high
The happiness we’re talking about is more than just a good time, a moment of excitement or finally getting those super-cool sneakers in the mail.
When you spend all of your energy chasing that fleeting high that comes from shiny new toys, high-octane nights out or a big bank balance (hmm, what’s that thing they say money can’t buy…?), you might not leave enough space to find the happiness that comes from relationships, a warm home, a sense of community or the natural environment right outside your door.
A Harvard study followed hundreds of men for 80 years and found that close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives. As one of the researchers said, relationships “help protect people from life’s discontents, help to delay mental and physical decline, and are better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, IQ, or even genes”.
Think about it in terms of your Centr nutrition: A sugar hit will give you a blast of energy right now, but good protein and carbs will help you last longer and perform better – which would you prefer?
2. You’re too focused on the destination
At the risk of sounding like an inspirational poster: Happiness is in the journey, not the destination.
Say you’re focusing all of your energy on a big promotion at work. You’re convinced that this is the thing that will finally make you happy, forever. But when it comes, you wish you’d taken the time to enjoy your old responsibilities or the team you worked with.
Completing that workout is satisfying, sure, but think about how you felt when you finally nailed a punching combination or twisted yourself into a tough yoga pose. And how much sweeter that refreshing post-workout smoothie in the sun is knowing you’ve done something good for your mind and body.
When you’re always chasing the bigger, shinier trophy, you tend to miss a lot of good stuff that’s happening along the way.
3. Your story never changes
Human beings are natural storytellers. If we asked you why you haven’t done today’s workout yet, you’d probably spin us a great one!
The stories we tell ourselves about our lives are powerful. Whether we realize it or not, we are constantly turning our experiences and feelings into a narrative that we use as guidance or justification for our actions. And these stories can help or hurt us (i.e. “Nothing good ever happens to me”). But the thing is, these stories are largely fictional and YOU are in charge of them.
Tune into the stories you tell yourself, challenge the ones that are holding you back, and start writing new ones that will help put you on the path to something more positive.
4. You’re scared (no, really)
Some people don’t allow themselves to feel happiness because they are waiting for the other shoe to drop – in other words, they’re preparing for what they see as inevitable failure.
If this sounds like you, you need to practice allowing yourself to be happy. When you feel happiness starting to rise, sit with it and enjoy it for a while, instead of pushing it back down or chasing it away with worry. Life is chaotic, and you can’t ‘prepare’ yourself for unexpected knocks and tragedy by not letting yourself enjoy the good times. Let some of that joyful sunshine in.