Urban Dictionary defines happiness as, “A small metal hinged box with pointy edges, rapped with barbed-wire and hidden in a dark room full of electric eels, razor-blades, piles of salt crystals with fans behind them and random pools of lemon juice.” It then useshappiness in a sentence. “I heard Bob died looking for happiness.” While I’m not sure how to respond to this definition, it has received over 1,533 likes. That’s a lot of people liking a distorted definition of happiness which basically tells people that happiness is like sitting on a bicycle with no seat. Painful.
If we’re so skeptical about being happy, why do we see this word appear more often than it used to? PBS did a special called Happy. It’s an amazing documentary that shows how the happiest people live the simplest lives. These people take nothing for granted. HBO Sports has a series called, State of Play, which aired its first episode titled Happiness. Director Peter Berg follows retired professional athletes such as Brett Favre, Michael Strahan, Tiki Barber and Wayne Chrebet to see how these athletes adapt to life after football. The question Peter Berg poses at the beginning of the documentary, is can you ever find happiness outside of football? While the athletes ultimately answer yes, there are a variety of obstacles and personal struggles these men face along the way. Just like in football, these men get knocked down a few times, but as resilient as they are, they always manage to get back up.
Happiness is not a commodity. It’s not even something tangible. It’s a state of mind which occurs when we’re in the moment and enjoying that moment. Sometimes that moment lasts a long time and sometimes it doesn’t. Years ago when I was in high school, I told myself that my New Year’s Resolution was that I was going to be happy. I can’t remember what exactly ensued that following year, but I don’t recall being all that happy.
One can argue that chasing happiness could be the beginning of the end. There are studies that actually show how chasing happiness leaves people feeling less fulfilled than ever. A show on Showtime called Happyish mocks happiness and happy people. In one episode the question of whether or not people are happy or angry comes up. The answer ends up being, people are angry, they just don’t want to admit it. In fact, the angrier people are, the happier they insist they are. Of course I laughed when I heard this. It’s kind of true, isn’t it?
Perhaps part of the reason we find ourselves tirelessly searching for happiness is that we believe that it is within reach. I don’t disagree. I just think that our perception of what it means to be happy is significantly different from what it feels like to be happy. Urban Dictionary’s definition of happy, is “a chemical reaction.”
When you’re happy, there does seem to be a physical reaction. You find yourself experiencing pleasure and joy. For a while I had forgotten what made me happy. It wasn’t until I saw PBS’s documentary Happy and State of Play’s Happiness episode that I was reminded. Being happy is not something we’re always conscious of. Remember that song, “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands?” Just look at the lyrics. Could it be any more obvious?
With all this talk surrounding happiness and what it means to be happy, I find myself coming to the same conclusion time and time again. Happiness is found in the little things in life that bring us pleasure. It’s not in the promotion at work that fills our hearts but rather the journey of getting there.
So what does it mean to be happy? It means being able to smile at the end of the day because you realize how much you love and are loved. It’s appreciating what you have rather than focusing on what you don’t. It’s finding humor when you’re in a horrible mood and most importantly, it’s the chemical reaction you have when you’re enjoying the moment.