Why Happiness is an Inside Job

Recently I’ve noticed a few books on the market called ‘happiness is an inside job’. And I knew instantly that this was a topic I had to write about. Something in my head clicked. I wanted to speak about this, I knew I had something to say. I just had to work out what it was. Why did this phrase resonate with me so profoundly? Finally, it hit me.

The Search for Happiness

I have had a long journey to happiness. Searching for it in many different areas. And relying on other people or things for it. I think part of the journey was part of normalized adolescent or childhood experiences. Finding happiness and what makes you happy is definitely a learning curve for it all. And life is changeable, what makes us happy at one point in our life, won’t necessarily be true of the next phase of our lives.

For How to Bring More Laughter into Your Life read here.

People Pleasing

It’s taken me a long time to recognise that happiness comes from the inside. Growing up I outsourced my happiness to other people or things. I assumed that if I made people around me happy. By being who they wanted me to be or doing what they wanted; then I would be happy. This turned out to be a false prophecy. If anything, the opposite happened. The harder I tried to please those around me the unhappier I became. I felt like I was living a lie and hiding my true self. People pleasing wasn’t my path to happiness.

It took me a long time to realise that the people around me wanted my happiness. Despite the pressures society can put on us. And those closer to home expectations from friends and family. At root, they did want me to be happy. And that meant the space to evolve and pursue my happiness.

You don’t love the people you love because they do what you want, but because of who they are

Please Like Me, Horrible Sandwiches

For How to Take Back Autonomy and Stop Living for Others read here.

More Things = More Happiness

Next I thought about accumulation of items. We’re frequently sold that the newest phone, the shiniest watch or the fastest car. Was this my path to happiness? Few of you will be surprised that accumulation was a wasted journey. Whilst buying something new, particularly if I had saved for it, felt good. It was a hollow and fleeting kind of happiness. It didn’t warm me from the inside. And I was always on the quest for a bigger or better feeling.

The pitfalls were also there. Life sometimes throws us lemons, and buying more can’t always solve the larger issues. Plus, we shouldn’t be reliant on spending money to improve our happiness. It’s not only an unhealthy habit and expectation to set up. But also, we don’t all have the privilege to spend with abandon. And encourages a dependence on instant gratification. The ineffectiveness of relying on accumulation for happiness is borne out in research suggesting spending money on experiences makes us happier than acquisition of material items. Which is beautifully illustrated by this quote:

I want more people, but no more things.

E.M. Forster, Howards End, Chapter 10

Looking for Validation

My pursuit of happiness also attached itself to my confidence and self-esteem. I made the leap that feeling good about myself, through looking the way society dictated, would unlock happiness. If people around me gave me a compliment, then I’d feel validated and therefore happier. This is a common mental leap and I think it impacts us across the board. Although it may be stereotyped as an adolescent experience. We are bombarded with messages around what our body’s should look like. When we see adverts or billboards, we may feel that we’re seeing lots of different types of bodies. And encouragingly, they are becoming more inclusive. But overwhelmingly there’s still the narrative of thin and pretty. An unattainable body image which many strive for and are so often left disappointed.

For myself, the link between a consumer driven, societally approved version of beauty was not the solution to happiness. Desperate to ‘fit in’, happiness only felt further away. My inability to achieve this elusive concept of beauty felt like failure and knocked my confidence. Trying to maintain a certain look was also exhausting. It wasn’t always possible and my frustration increased. At this time my mood was lower than ever and happiness began to feel like a distant memory

Happiness Research

Studies into happiness echo my own thoughts on the subject. Relationships are important. People who are shown to be happiest in longitudinal studies were those with strong relationships and support networks. It’s about having people around you, who accept you for who you are. These are the people who can help boost our happiness. Provided we don’t make our happiness contingent on them.

Time and experiences have also shown to be a happiness booster. People who invest in their own enjoyment report being happier. This makes a lot of sense. Recently I’ve been trying to spend money on experiences rather than things. I’ve made some amazing memories which will last far longer than a piece of clothing or a pair of shoes. Whilst money is important – we need to live – it only increases our wellbeing to a point. It’s thought that an annual salary of $75,000 in the US or approx. £58,000 in the UK boosts wellbeing. Anything beyond that becomes immaterial. Although, newer research suggests that that isn’t necessarily the case anymore. Which is understandable. It’s hard to invest in your wellbeing or stay positive when you’re worried about your finances.

It’s All About You!

Overall being happy or rather feeling happy makes me a better person. It makes me more compassionate. It gives me time to be kind to myself and others. When I feel happy it bubbles up inside me. And I like the person I am in that moment. We know happiness is important. Happier people have better physical and mental health, we’re also more motivated and creative. As well as more able to contribute to the community. We’re also more financially responsible!

For A Guide to Gaining a Positive Perspective read here.

I’ve learnt that happiness truly is an inside job. It needs to come from myself. Not from those around me. It’s not about approval from others or owning more things. Instead, it’s about how I feel about myself. It’s surrounding myself with people who I am comfortable with. And acknowledging and valuing what I have earned and fought for. To me, happiness is a by-product of when I’m prioritizing my needs and looking after myself. It’s a recognition of who I am and my achievements. That I’m a work in progress and that that’s ok. Because I’m still moving forward at my own pace.

For A Guide to Prioritizing Self-Care by Prioritizing You read here.

There’s so much to play for on our personal journey to happiness. But we can also pressurize ourselves to be happy. I don’t always feel happy and it’s important for me to recognize that that is ok. It’s very normal. I also know that in those moments I have to remind myself that happiness will return. In the words of French poet Jacques Prevert:

Even if happiness forgets you a little bit. Never completely forget about it

Jacques Prevert

What’s on your path to happiness? What works for you? Let us know below and perhaps we can all find more ways to find happiness

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