Can Happiness Be Measured?
For many people, the pursuit of happiness can seem like the Holy Grail.
Yet even when you believe you have found happiness, can happiness be measured? How do you know you are happy or simply feeling content? And if you are experiencing feelings of happiness, how do you measure your happiness levels?
In a world where organisations like Action for Happiness are dedicated to fostering a happier society, and an abundance of self-help books inundate our shelves, all aiming to guide us towards happiness, it may appear as though happiness is a mysterious treasure we must embark on a quest to uncover.
Even our political leaders such as David Cameron, at times, have shown interest in quantifying happiness, as exemplified by initiatives like the ‘Happiness Agenda’ (though it seems to have given way to other pressing matters like Brexit, which hasn’t exactly lifted our spirits!). This leads us to ponder – has happiness eluded us, or has it evolved?
In an era dominated by technology, where we are in constant contact with our smartphones, tablets, and the virtual world of social media through platforms like Facebook and Instagram, have we unintentionally forfeited our ability to experience genuine happiness? Are we attempting to gauge our happiness by the number of likes and social media interactions we accrue?
Could it be that we’ve fallen into the trap of thinking, “I’ll be happy when… I get that promotion, land a new job, shed those extra pounds, attain the house, partner, or car of my dreams, publish my book, or achieve professional athlete status?” Have we been led to believe the illusion that true happiness hinges on external factors?
As a therapist and coach, I’ve sat across from countless clients, all expressing their yearning for happiness. Yet, when I’ve probed deeper and asked, “How will you recognise happiness? What sights, sounds, or feelings will signify it?” More often than not, the response is, “I don’t know.”
You see, people are proficient at articulating what they wish to avoid – they don’t want anxiety, morning dread, or weeks of fretting about public speaking. However, when it comes to painting a vivid picture of what happiness entails, they often struggle. It’s as though their minds draw a blank. Given that happiness is a universal desire, if we cannot identify the markers that indicate our daily experience of happiness, how can we ever hope to measure it?
Can Happiness Be Measured?
Happiness, in its purest essence, is a feeling, and much like any other emotion you encounter, happiness originates from within you. Think of it like the sun on a cloudy day – just because the sky is overcast and you can’t see or bask in the sun’s warmth, it doesn’t mean it’s not there. The same principle applies to happiness.
Regrettably, many have been led to believe that happiness solely emanates from external sources or extraordinary events. However, this is a misconception. You can experience happiness for a myriad of reasons, without having to wait for something exceptional to occur. It’s as simple as choosing to embrace happiness in the present moment. Let go of the notion that happiness can only be measured through significant milestones like finding the perfect partner, reaching a particular career status, a specific salary level, or achieving your ideal weight.
Life is not merely a collection of momentous occasions; it’s a continuous stream of moments. Yet, as humans, we excel at linking our emotional state to external circumstances.
Consider the example of a child and their beloved teddy bear. When the child hugs the teddy bear, they feel happiness, calmness, reassurance, and safety. In that moment, the child genuinely believes that these feelings stem from the bear, and without the bear, those emotions are unattainable. As adults, we understand that a teddy bear cannot imbue us with such emotions because it’s merely composed of fabric and stuffing! Nevertheless, we’ve substituted the teddy bear with the quest for the perfect partner, career, financial success, or achievements – the list goes on. The truth is, everything in life is akin to that teddy bear; the source of happiness lies within us, waiting to be embraced.
5 Ways To Tap Into Your Innate Happiness!
Drawing from my extensive experience, having conducted over 10,000 one-on-one sessions with individuals, I can unequivocally assert that the true wellspring of happiness resides within you!. The question therefore is less about ‘what will make me happy?’ to ‘what is it that you are doing that’s preventing you from experiencing your innate happiness?‘
Here are five transformative ways for you to tap into your innate happiness:
1. Reframe Your Happiness Source: It’s imperative to liberate yourself from the common misconception that happiness hinges on external conditions or future events. Similar to the teddy bear analogy we’ve explored, you have the power to feel happy in the present moment. Think of something or someone you love deeply, bring them or a cherished memory to mind, and place your hand over your heart as you do so. Smile as you hold this image and sentiment close. During this exercise, your heart will produce oxytocin — the love hormone ❤️ — triggering feelings of love, appreciation, and happiness. You can linger in this state for as long as you wish, relishing the natural flow of these emotions.
2. Cultivate Gratitude Thinking: Regularly immersing yourself in thoughts of gratitude can be profoundly transformative. Dr. Emmons, a renowned expert on gratitude, has found that individuals who consistently reflect on their blessings report heightened positive emotions, life satisfaction, optimism, vitality, and reduced stress and depression. Every morning as you awaken, contemplate three things you’re grateful for. These can be as simple as the warmth of your bed, the sun’s gentle rays filtering through your blinds, or the clean air you breathe. There’s an abundance of elements to be thankful for in your immediate surroundings, and cultivating gratitude will gradually infuse you with contentment, appreciation, and yes, happiness, for your current circumstances.
3. Understand the Origin of Your Experience: Much like the teddy bear analogy, we tend to believe that our emotions are derived from external circumstances—such as a work email, a conversation with a colleague or partner, or even a health concern. However, I invite you to consider a profound truth: every aspect of your experience is 100% generated from within you, shaped by the perceptual maps and models etched into your mind and brain, collectively referred to as your neurophysiology. When you find yourself ensnared in a tempest of thoughts, it may seem as if your emotions are being thrust upon you from external sources, but the reality is that your emotions are always born from your thoughts. Thoughts are not concrete or indicative of reality; they are akin to passing clouds in the sky. With practice, you can learn to observe them without becoming ensnared. When caught in a thought storm, take slow, deep breaths, reminding yourself that like all storms, this too shall pass, leaving you with clarity and serenity.
4. Craft a New Narrative: Consider how frequently you recount the story of what’s going wrong in your day or life compared to what’s going well. Do you dwell on a single negative incident at work while overlooking the five positive experiences that occurred? Your words possess immense power, and perpetuating tales of adversity or negativity only drain your energy and generate chemicals that do not contribute to your happiness. When working with clients, I prioritise shifting their focus from the problem to a solution-driven perspective. Instead of dwelling on the issue, we extract the necessary context and delve into powerful questions that foster insight and clarity. These questions, like keys in a lock, enable them to enter a new inner reality where they not only feel better but also unearth their true essence. Perhaps it’s time for you to embark on a journey of self-discovery through a different narrative.
5. Reconnect with Nature: While technology has undoubtedly enriched our lives, it has also tethered many of us to our devices, severing our connection with the natural world. To tap into your innate happiness, consider detaching from the digital realm to reconnect with the physical world around you. Grant your mind a digital detox and venture outdoors to commune with nature. Even during autumn and winter, exposing yourself to natural light and boosting your vitamin D intake is vital. Engage in physical activity, embark on brisk walks, invigorate your lymphatic system, inhale the crisp air, and immerse yourself mindfully in your surroundings—observe the colours, sounds, and scents. Allow yourself to become one with the environment, and you’ll witness the profound joy it bestows upon you.
In closing, I leave you with this wisdom from Omar Khayyam: “Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.”
Can happiness be measured? Undoubtedly, the only person who can measure your innate happiness is you. The more you tap into the inherent joy within, the more you will realise that happiness is not an elusive pursuit; rather, it is a natural state waiting for you to embrace it fully.
Is your mindset getting in the way of you tapping into your innate happiness? Or would you love to run a Course on Happiness (a great way to boost your eNPS!) or an Employee Wellbeing Webinar on Happiness? Schedule a happy call with us now!
Sara Maude, a seasoned solution-focused psychotherapist, Transformational Coach, Hypnotherapist, and EFT Practitioner, brings over a decade of mental health expertise to global organisations. She specialises in conducting employee wellbeing webinars and offering tailored mental health awareness training for managers. Sara’s proficiency also extends to wellbeing consultancy and wellbeing strategy, contributing significantly to the enhancement of workplace mental health and overall wellbeing.