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What Does It Mean To Be Happy?

Kaitlin Broderick LCPC 

Happiness isn’t something that is easy to define. People often ask themselves, how can I be happier or how can I get more joy out of everyday life?  Why aren’t I as happy as this person seems to be? Happiness is a subjective state of well-being, and what makes one person happy won’t necessarily make a different person happy. It is an emotional state that varies widely from day to day or even hour to hour. No one is ever going to be a 10 out of 10 on the happiness scale all the time. People often put unrealistic standards on themselves on how they should be happy most of the time and if they aren’t, something is wrong. The reality is that we are complex human beings with a range of emotions and it is normal to feel sadness and pain at times. We as a society are at a point in time where we have more freedom, more money, more choices than ever before, yet rates of depression continue to skyrocket. Here are some of the potential reasons why we are more unhappy than ever before and some consistent elements across the board that have been proven to increase happiness levels. 

We are constantly comparing ourselves to others. Through social media, we are bombarded by displays of other people whose lives look perfect. The reality is that you don’t know what life is really like for anyone judging only from their social media and the more you compare, the unhappier you will be. Just because someone looks happy doesn’t necessarily mean that they are. 

Instead of being present in our lives, we focus on the past or future. We second guess our choices, or we look to the future for happiness, thinking once I get this job or this house then I will be happy. This way of thinking is always a recipe for unhappiness and discontent. 

We are also more stressed than ever before. People often equate more money with more happiness but with more money comes more work and longer hours which results in neglecting other areas of your life such as health and relationships. 

Things that have been proven to actually increase happiness include volunteering or doing something nice for someone else. This is effective partially because it gets you outside of your own head and helps you to focus on something other than self. 

Having meaningful relationships has been shown to make people happier. Being able to talk to others when you are having a hard time rather than putting up a mask/facade that everything is ok is crucial to well-being. Studies have shown that Scandinavian countries tend to have overall happier people mainly because of the sense of community and the value they put on relationships with others. A feeling of purpose in your life has been shown to make people happier as well. This may mean exploring what your values are and putting more time into what you truly enjoy and less time on doing things out of obligation or guilt. 

Sometimes age can bring more resilience and an appreciation for the smaller things in life. Developing an attitude of gratitude and reminding yourself of things you are grateful for on a daily basis has been shown to increase overall well-being. As humans, we have a tendency to focus on the negatives in our lives as well as focus on what we lack rather than what we have. Try to do the opposite of this and focus on the positives in your life and what you do have. 

If you are trying these techniques and still struggling with a persistent feeling of low self-worth, loss of hope, or trouble enjoying pleasurable activities please reach out to someone to help as these are signs of clinical depression. Talk to one of our therapists at Symmetry Counseling today. We offer in-person and online counseling in Chicago.

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