Happiness is not a destination.
It’s easy to think that happiness is found in a circumstance.
I have fallen for the belief that I’ll only find happiness when a certain thing happens. Here are some of my “when and then” statements I’ve believed.
I believed that when I:
- get the perfect body, then I’ll be happy.
- marry the man of my dreams, then I’ll be happy.
- work my dream job, then I will be happy.
- get this new Charlotte Tilbury eyeliner that my fav YouTuber suggests, then I’ll be happy.
- move to this new city, then I’ll be happy.
But then why is it that when we eventually get the perfect body that we strived for,
Or find the man of our dreams,
Or finally start working that dream job,
….that we find it didn’t completely, 100% fulfill us? That it wasn’t the answer to all our life’s problems, that it didn’t make us feel beautiful or good enough, that it didn’t leave us completely satisfied?
It’s because we weren’t meant to find our fulfillment in a circumstance. And science actually backs this up (yes, this is a factual thing.)
The “Science of Well Being” class explains it all
I recently came across “The Science of Well-Being”, a popular course at Yale, that reveals fascinating facts about the psychology behind happiness. When I was researching the material, I found that what many people thought was going to make them happy, actually didn’t. This is because our happiness actually levels out as we adapt to our new circumstances.
So with people who were just getting married, while they would feel initial happiness after getting married, eventually their happiness would eventually level out to what it was before they were even married. Same goes for making more money.
So basically, you could marry Brad Pitt and make a million buckaroonies, and while you’d be happy initially, your happiness would eventually return to your happiness levels of when you were single and poor.
The study also shared that only 10% of our happiness depends on our circumstances, and 40% of your happiness is based on how you look at your circumstances (the other 50% is reliant on genetics).
So if your life sucks rn, this is GOOD NEWS! You are not doomed, and you can change your well-being with your outlook. But it first starts with changing how you perceive fulfillment in your own life.
Think about what your “when & then” statement is. Then, I want you to stare at it right in the face, and I want you to accept that “when” is not going to take all your problems away. It’s only when we accept this that we can let ourselves experience true joy with where we are at currently.
You don’t need to wait for happiness.
Friend – You don’t need to wait for your happiness. You don’t need to wait until you have XYZ to actually enjoy your life. You can enjoy it right now, right where you are, with what you have.
So you might be thinking, okay Ashley, I get that happiness isn’t found somewhere else. But then how the heck do I feel happy today?
The first step is debunking the myth in your brain that fulfillment is found somewhere else. Once you get rid of that idea, you can focus on cultivating happiness in your day.
Below are some different ways to cultivate happiness today:
COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS
Grateful people are happier people. And it’s actually not that hard to incorporate gratitude in your everyday life. Every morning, I try to thank God for at least three things. This could look like, “Hey God. I am thankful for my mom, for this yummy cup of coffee, and for these comfy pajamas.” It doesn’t have to be super outlandish or deep, just putting your heart in a posture of gratitude can make all the difference.
LEAN INTO GOD’S JOY
One of the beautiful gifts of God is JOY. The dictionary definition of joy is “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.” This kind of sensation is even BETTER than happiness, and it can be found wherever God is.
Psalm 16:11 says: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (ESV)
When I want to feel joy, I lean into God’s love.
I meditate on who He is and His love for me. And I talk to Him throughout my day. I soak myself in the Bible, and I spend time with Him before my day starts. I listen to worship music that makes me wanna dance through the roof.
When I choose to focus on Him, I am overcome with joy and peace.
If you’ve never felt that before, I encourage you to ask God to provide you with joy today. You can say, “Hey God! How ya doin’! Thank you that you provide joy and peace through your Holy Spirit. In your Word, you say that in your presence there is fullness of joy, and I would love to experience that joy today. I trust you to provide me with joy today. In your name, Amen.”
There are daily practices that you can do to provide greater levels of happiness. Research shows that people feel greater levels of happiness on days where they exercised.
So this means you’re more likely to be happy on days when you hit the gym vs days where they ate Lays potato chips and binge-watched Tiger King (although there are exceptions where these days are necessary, aka during horrible breakups or PMS symptoms).
But largely, treating your body like a temple & honoring God with your body is essential to your mental health. This means getting at least 7 hours of sleep, feeding your body whole foods, and getting some exercise.
Additionally, it is important to cultivate relationships in your day to day life. Science found that loneliness actually increases heart disease, causes anxiety & depression, and doubles your risk for premature death – so it’s truly “not good for man to be alone” (ha- see what I did there).
We are happiest when we are in community. So in this time of quarantine, reach out to your friends for FaceTime dates. Gather your friends for a Google Hangout. Call someone you haven’t talked to in a while and see how they are doing. Life is better when it is experienced with other people.
Kindness not only helps another person feel happy, but also yourself.
I distinctly remember being 8-years-old at the American Girl Doll store in Chicago – it was a cold winter day and I had all this change saved up to buy some clothes for my doll.
I had already had a day at the store and was about to get some more clothes, when I saw a homeless woman huddled under a blanket in the freezing cold. Something in my heart told me to give her the rest of my change. She took out her frail hands from under her blanket as she accepted my ziplock bag, and with a big smile, told me “God bless you.”
I remember feeling so darn joyful to see this woman smile. Do I remember ANY of the American girl doll clothes that I got on this trip? Not at all. But I remember the joy I felt in giving this woman a reason to smile, and that just goes to show how powerful giving is.
So today, I invite us to not put our lives on hold anymore. Together, we don’t need to lean on circumstances, but instead lean on the Lord for his supply of joy, a joy that the world cannot give.
Our happiness is not something that is “out there” – but rather something we can experience right here, right where we are, no matter what situation we are in.
What a beautiful, freeing thing we’ll experience when joy meets us right where we are, right in our decision to choose it.