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Most people say they want to 'be happy' above all else, so let's look at the different ways in which this can be achieved.
In his course 'The Happiness Project', Robert Holden talks about the 3 types of happiness.
The first type he describes is pleasure, which is a sensory feeling of happiness.
Examples of this are many.
What do we find pleasurable? This will of course differ for everyone but generally certain types of food or drink are 'pleasurable', certain smells or sights, experiences, music. The list is endless.
We all like pleasure!
The only downside to pleasure is that it is dependant upon a stimulus and a response; there is a limited timescale, - when the stimulus is gone the pleasure soon dissipates.
There is an opposite to pleasure also which is pain.
The second type of happiness Robert describes is satisfaction, which is circumstantial.
This type of happiness is based on desire, and getting what you want.
There is always a 'because' or an 'if' or a 'when' attached to it.
For example, I'll be happy 'when' I get my new house, job, lover etc.
I'm happy 'because' my favourite team beat their opponents yesterday, or 'because' I just passed my exams.
I'll be happy 'if' I get an A grade, or 'if' I land that job.
This second type of happiness is fragile.
Research shows that circumstantial happiness is short term, and has only a negligible effect on our overall long term happiness.
There is an opposite to this type of happiness also, which is dissatisfaction.
The third type of happiness is joy, also described as 'an unreasonable happiness.'
It's 'unreasonable' because there is no apparent reason for it that we can see or touch.
Joy is something which comes from within us.
We 'tune into' it - it is always there for the taking, yet we have to choose it.
Have you ever suddenly felt really joyful for no apparent reason?
The feeling just 'wells up inside of you' and you're not sure where it came from?
This is the type of happiness that comes from joy, and there is no opposite to this.
Watch a young child playing. Young children and babies experience joy naturally - it's in their very being. They don't need a reason to feel joyful - they just ARE.
They are happy to be alive - there's no hidden agenda. They find wonder in the smallest thing.
Later they LEARN to want things more and more, and for their apparent happiness to depend on pleasurable experiences and circumstances.
We teach them that by role modelling it and it's not our fault
- it's how we were taught also.
We can choose joy once again at any given moment.
It is always there inside of us but we have to tap in or tune in to it.
We've forgotten how because we got caught up in the endless cycle of searching for our happiness outside of ourselves and we can never find it there.
"The very nature of joy makes nonsense of our common distinction between having and wanting". C. S. Lewis
This is not to say we give up having goals and dreams.
We don't need to give up pleasurable moments and feelings of satisfaction.
On the contrary - we can and should enjoy every pleasurable experience and live our lives to the full.
As long as we don't make our overall happiness in life dependant upon these transient moments and we realise that true happiness is the 'unreasonable' happiness of joy that can be found within ourselves 'at any given time', then our search for happiness will finally be over.
Sounds easy but of course it takes practice and we shall forget over and over that this is really possible. Especially as most of us have had many years of 'programming' to think that happiness depends on external things. The freedom that it brings, however, when we can do this is priceless.