What is Happiness, and Where do You Find It?

With all of the focus on happiness currently, it can feel a little overwhelming. What if it’s hard to find? What if it feels like it’s something for other people, but not for me? Or if it’s difficult to get hold of – how do we know when we’re truly happy?

I love this quote by Daphne Du Maurier:

“Happiness is not a possession to be prized, it is a quality of thought, a state of mind”.

Daphne Du Maurier

We can’t “own” happiness. It’s not a definite something, with substance, this makes it difficult to track, to define and even to work out when it’s present. Like all emotions, happiness is often fleeting – it comes and goes, and we don’t always recognise it when it is present.

Knowing that it is a quality of thought, a state of mind, means that we can treat it with a little more lightness. Its presence or absence doesn’t define the quality of our lives. When we are happy, it isn’t something to boast about, or to show off on social media – because it isn’t a possession, it isn’t real.

When we start to recognise this, we can unhook from what Russ Harris calls the “happiness trap”. We can let go of chasing after this state of mind. When we let go, we open ourselves up to the whole range of human experiences – happiness is just one experience within this range. When we narrowly focus on just one aspect of life, that’s when it becomes harder to find.

When we start to open up to all of the possibilities that life brings us, we may start to recognise more when we experience different emotions – including happiness. We might notice the types of things that link to happiness – the situations, places, different sensory experiences that lead to the state of mind that is happiness. We notice how happiness feels internally, and the effects this may have externally. Whose company do we instinctively seek out when we’re happy? Where are the places we tend to go? How does it feel inside?

Whose company do we instinctively seek out when we’re happy? Where are the places we tend to go? How does it feel inside?

Happiness can be like an explosion – a burst of energy, a rush of pleasure. Perhaps the heart beats faster, there may be a shortness of breath. It can be a slow, burning contentment, an easiness with someone you love. Happiness can flicker, then subside quickly or be around for days or even weeks. Sometimes it can feel as if it’s been absent for a long time, then it takes you by surprise. We can be happy from something we’ve directly experienced, or it can come vicariously through others – think about a friend telling you about an achievement or reading something emotive in a book you’re enjoying.

The routes into happiness can be limitless. This state of mind, this quality of thought. Let’s not over-think it, but simply enjoy it whenever it arises.

By Susie Hooper
By Susie Hooper

Susie loves teaching mindfulness in her local community in Central Scotland and also online.