Monday, 18 November 2013

In Pursuit of the Meaning of Happiness

Happiness is a complex state of well-being – if you over-think what it is, you’re in danger of eroding what it means; if you try and define how happy you are, you risk convincing yourself you’re not happy enough; and if you reach the dizzy heights of happiness, you have a long way to come back down.

I don’t mean to sound like a pessimist, but I can’t help wondering what happiness is all about. 

Unhappiness is easier to comprehend: we feel it when our loved ones’ lives or our own are a struggle, when we try to be what we’re not (but think we should be), when we get our heart ripped out by a loved one, or if we believe the grass to be greener on that other, bloody side.

Yes, any of the above will make us truly miserable with our lot.

But what about being happy? Is it really as simple as perceiving our half-empty cup as half-full? What is happiness made of anyway? Is it just a fanciful concept to keep us on our toes as we endlessly pursue it? If we could bottle happiness and sell it would it be in demand? Or would it quickly go out of fashion when we realise we don’t need it anyway? Is happiness just about not being unhappy? 

There’s a well-known Ernest Hemingway quote: 
"Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know."

By no means do I profess to be intelligent; but I can certainly over-think a shiny subject like happiness until I’ve wiped the gleam right off it. 

Like a lot of writers, I write better when feeling intensely sad or angry… you might call that wallowing, but at times like those, writing is all I can do. So what if I’m happy? Well, then I’m usually too busy celebrating that to do anything else. 

I want to know if happiness feels different for different people. So what is happiness to you?

I’ll leave you with the words of Haruki Murakami: 
“It's like Tolstoy said. Happiness is an allegory, unhappiness a story.” 

Anyway,if all else fails, here’s 10 ways to trick yourself into being happy

Nisha P Postlethwaite is author of eBook The First Sense for more information visit her website


  1. Personally I think Happiness is a state of mind, but it does seem many people find it easier to be unhappy than happy, it really depends on how you perceive your life and the things that go on around you, do yo have problems or are they challenges? Do you take thing to heart or shrug them off? I myself can get in the doldrums, but once I have realised it I can pull myself out of it pretty rapid :)

  2. Wise words Peter - I think happiness is certainly something we can tune up or dull down. I think there is too much expectation on some of the young people I've recently spoken to on what they think they should aspire to, own or look like - and it does make them unhappy. Confidence in ourselves and being happy with our choices does get easier as we all get older ... but yes, I agree, it is a state of mind