There is something about the “pursuit of happiness” which has penetrated into the human psyche and set it out as a worthy goal and ideal for us to pursue. The pursuit of something normally means that once we have achieved something, we will have attained it. It further follows that if we attain it, it then belongs to us as a permanent fixture and cannot be lost. So, if we pursue happiness, that must mean once we complete certain goals, it will be ours – and quite rightly to. And if we don’t attain it, then the goals must have been wrong, or they couldn’t have been the right goals, or we didn’t know what we really wanted to make us happy.
Oh how this all takes us away from the reality of being happy.
I’ve written before how happiness is a very transitory experience. We humans are a complex species, fully capable of experiencing a range of emotions in a short period of time. We don’t always understand why we experience conflicting emotions, but it can and does happen. Happiness comes and goes just as easily as it does to feel angry or to feel disgust, depending on what we experience.
What I think we need to talk about more is how to appreciate the experiences we have. Happiness is less about having moments of happiness, and more about how we perceive the moments we have. It’s very possible for two people to experience the same thing and yet have a very different perspective on what happened. It is not our duty to rectify anyone’s thinking on what they experience, because that is the wrong way to think about things. What’s mores useful is to help people understand how to appreciate what they experience. We can’t force happiness on anyone anymore or less than we can force love onto someone.
There is also something for me in how we express appreciation and gratitude with others. If I can articulate why something made me feel happy, and share that with someone, that’s a pretty special thing to do. We want someone else to share that feeling we’re experiencing. It helps others to know what brings us joy and makes us feel happy. As with most things with interpersonal communication, it’s how we articulate things that help others either know what we are thinking and feeling, or not.
In our desire to be happy, we need to understand that goals are important, giving to others is important and expressing gratitude is important. In doing these things, we learn that we can experience happiness when we learn how to appreciate what’s happening at different moments. Sometimes this may be things at work, or on your walk to the shops, or in talking with a friend, or spending valued time with loved ones, or in watching a film, or in reading a book. Whatever it might be, it’s about appreciating that those things are happening at all and how we can find joy in them.