To be happy is an elusive and hard to define goal, but happiness has also been noted as a critical part of health and well-being for a long time. The pursuit of happiness has been repeatedly studied over time and is even included as an inalienable right in the Declaration of Independence.
Defining happiness is complicated but we do know that it involves feeling positive emotions more often than negative ones, and a feeling of life satisfaction. Generally speaking, happiness is considered something that comes, goes, and can change. Although genetics do play a role in overall happiness levels, being a happy person isn’t a personality trait that some people carry and others don’t.
To live in a state of happiness is a learned skill that begins with evaluating areas of your life that cause unease, dissatisfaction, or discontent, working through those things, and developing coping skills to help you through when they come up again. It also involves developing the things that contribute to happiness, which we will go into more in a minute.
So, how can you tell if you are a happy person? Since happiness is a subjective feeling, this can change from person to person, but some general key signs that you are a happy person are:
You may notice that in the year 2020, a couple of those bullet points have become a bit challenging to check off. It’s true: according to a survey by NORC at the University of Chicago, a record low number of 14% of people reported feeling very happy this year, a 17% drop from 2018. Isolation, limited social interaction, limited options for self-care activities, and general uncertainty about the future are all factors contributing uniquely to unhappiness this year.
So what are the factors contributing to happiness that we can work on, and what does this look like in 2020?
This year is requiring us to be creative with the way we accomplish most things – happiness included. Social relationships look different than usual. Maybe you’re Zoomed-out and need to do a social-distanced porch hangout instead. Our family cultures are being tested with the holidays looking differently from normal, but what about creating some new traditions this year? Ask yourself what the most important thing for your family around the holidays is and how you can do that one thing well.
Try to pick one or two things on this list to work on now and do your best not to overthink it. Pursuing happiness to an extreme can make it feel all the more elusive. Peel back the complexities of your life and find what values truly matter to you, which relationships are your top priority, simplify everything else, and find happiness.