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. It just clicked somewhere in my head. 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
It’s taken me a long, long time to recognise this idea as true. 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.
Next I thought about things. Maybe if I had more. The newest phone or more expensive clothing. Maybe I would be happy then. Perhaps that would be the key to unlocking my 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. I couldn’t always have the best things. And when I couldn’t happiness felt further away than ever. And this is born out in the research that suggests spending money on experiences makes us happier than acquisition of material items.
My pursuit of happiness also turned to my looks. Perhaps if I looked better I would feel happy. If people around me complimented me then I’d feel validated and therefore happier. Neither of those things turned out to be true. Trying to look a certain way and the frustration when I didn’t knocked my confidence and chipped away at my self-esteem. Trying to maintain a certain look was exhausting. It wasn’t always possible and I was increasingly angry about it. At this time my mood was lower than ever and happiness began to feel like a distant memory
It’s All About You!
And now? Now 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 feeling good with the people I am surrounded with 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.
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. I once heard someone say that the people who matter are those who love us for who we are not what we do for them. 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 with more time on their hands to enjoy themselves are happier people. 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.
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!
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”.
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