How Do You Interpret Happiness?

How Do You Know When You Are Happy? Maybe Your Answer Is A Place, Or A Person, Or An Event.

No matter what you believe makes you happy, the question was kind of a trick one. You are very much in control of your own happiness. Happiness isn’t the natural response to anything in particular, but the way we choose to interpret what goes on around us. So, anyone can be happy—you simply must choose it. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, “People are about as happy as they think they are.”

I think of happiness as a formula. The events you experience plus your interpretation of those events make up your emotions. We don’t have automatic responses to the events we go through; human emotions aren’t inextricably tied to any specific events. Instead, events happen and they simply exist, without value, until we give them meaning.

Just about anything that happens can be interpreted positively or negatively depending on the circumstances. For instance, a promotion in your company that requires you to relocate can lead to something you may be very excited about such as a raise or better status. But you might not choose to move because it would be sad to leave friends and family behind and/or the cost of living would be extremely high. These are possible interpretations of the promotion, and these interpretations could lead to emotions such as pride, excitement, disappointment, or sadness depending on what you saw as important . However, the interpretations are within our control: just as there are two or more sides to any story, there are usually many ways to interpret events. Things such as personal biases, experiences, and preference affect these interpretations. Knowing that, it’s easier to see that events aren’t “good” or “bad,”—they simply are. Our interpretations of them are what give them values like “good,” “horrible,” “excellent,” “mediocre,” “OK,” etc.

“Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means that you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.” This quote, which does not have a known attribution, encapsulates the thesis of this post. Nothing will ever be perfect at least not for very long. It simply means that looking for the positives in an event is just as easy or difficult as looking for the negatives. So be thankful for and appreciative of the positives; then look at the negatives and see what you can learn from them. Happiness is very much your choice. Why not choose to be happy?

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