If our culture was asked to define happiness, it wouldn’t be strange to hear answers like “money,” “nice clothes,” “popularity,” or “having my eyebrows on-fleek.”
At this point, you’re probably expecting me to tell you why that’s wrong. Guess what: I’m not. But I am going to tell you how to find lasting happiness — or what’s better described as “joy.”
By definition, happiness is dependent on “happenings.” Meaning, happiness is based on circumstances setting the stage for happiness to, well, “happen.”
The problem with our culture’s definition of happiness is that much of it is focused on immediate gratification.
The problem with our culture’s definition of happiness is that much of it is focused on immediate gratification. Kind of like drinking a Red Bull and enjoying the rush it gives — and then it’s gone. It’s temporary.
But the better way to think about it is by asking this question: What’s the difference between temporary happiness and lasting happiness? These two forms of happiness are wildly different from one another and come from two very different places. Lasting happiness isn’t situational. It’s the kind of happiness that allows you to find comfort and a positive outlook when something bad happens.
While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the simple things that give us temporary happiness, the problem is, we just can’t trust them to stick around very long. As C.S. Lewis — the writer of the Narnia series, as well as countless other books — said, “Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose.”
So here are three ways you can move from the endless pursuit of temporary happiness to a lifestyle of lasting happiness.
GRATITUDE: Many studies have shown that those who’ve discovered lasting happiness were those who learned the art of being thankful. What if, in our pursuit of happiness, we began to be thankful for what we have, instead of allowing what we don’t have to dominate our view on life? It’s easy to focus on the negatives, but taking time to be grateful for the positive things each day can shift us into a new way of discovering lasting happiness.
It could be as simple as taking the time to text and thank someone who has had a positive effect on your life. Gratitude is a happiness generator.
GIVING: One of the central ideas behind the statement “I am second” is the idea of putting God and others first in our daily lives.
G.P. Palmer says, “Happiness is a by-product of an effort to make someone else happy.” Practically speaking, consider what it would look like to find a way to give to those in need in your school, work, or community. Consider giving your time, talents, and resources as an investment into someone else’s happiness that will inevitably return with interest.
LOVE: When it comes to the connection between love and happiness, a guy with a lot of wisdom on this subject named Professor Arthur Dobrin nails it.
“Whichever way you find happiness, it is always accompanied by love, for happiness is ultimately the love of life, the celebration of living,” he writes. “The mark of happiness is that you are sensitive to the world around you, that you acknowledge your dependence upon your surroundings and that you are filled with loving-kindness.”
So did you notice a common theme? All of the ways I mentioned require you to give something. Think about that. Lasting happiness isn’t found in what we can get but in what we give away.
See, the problem is not enjoying things. The problem is holding on to them too tightly.
In your pursuit of happiness, what have you given away today?
David Martin is the youth culture strategist at I Am Second. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram (@realDavidMartin).