People, particularly those suffering from depression, can become confused on what a happy life looks like. If I can just have fun like everyone else, they might think. Yet fun is not happiness. While there are similarities, fun is more surface level. Happiness is deeper.
Why Fun is Not Happiness
In the U.S., we are unique in that we have the guaranteed right to pursue happiness. We all want more happiness, but many of us have difficulty nailing down an exact definition. And the definition all-too-frequently gets confused with “fun.” However fun and happiness are not synonymous.
What, then, the Declaration of Independence notwithstanding, is meant by happiness? Philosophers have been debating the question for thousands of years, while therapists work hard at helping people find this elusive mindset. Everyone talks about it and wants it. Few understand what it actually is.
Let’s begin with the basics: Is happiness the same as fun?
It’s a tricky question. Plenty of people have fun. Ask anyone who closed the bar last night after 10 shots; they had plenty of fun! But are they happy?
Fun is provisional. It depends on the situation. A party can be fun, as can a vacation, or a shopping trip. It’s situational. And a person can have the adrenaline surge of a fun time without being happy. There is probably a reason the Declaration of Independence does not guarantee us fun, which is mostly influenced by outside forces.
When the party is over, the liquor has all been spilled, and we’ve shopped till the credit card companies send us birthday greetings, we still haven’t found that elusive thing called happiness. Consider this: when was the last time you felt blissful after getting drunk, after a party, or after maxing out the credit card?
It may lead to misery when we realize all that work has been for naught. However, the work was not for nothing. Fun has a wonderful purpose in our lives. Many of us simply never learn the true nature of happiness and the fact that it isn’t hiding behind a better car, bigger house, or inside a bottle of single-malt bourbon.
Fun is fleeting and is over when the party breaks up. Happiness, on the other hand, requires a dedication to growing morally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Happiness is the result of the choices we make.
What Is Happiness
If we have the right to pursue happiness, it effectively translates into the right to try and fulfill our needs. Essential happiness comes from experiencing a sense of satisfaction. Our life may not be perfect but is it as it should be, and that realization leads to us achieving happiness. Happiness can, of course, fluctuate. For example, we may feel grumpy because the outfit we ordered online doesn’t fit while remaining essentially happy with our life.
What Do We Need For Deep Happiness?
As already discussed, happiness involves having our needs met. That, of course, can be very subjective. Our needs can be complicated, and they can change. As unique beings, different things may make us happy. One person may feel that the ultimate happiness in raising a child, while for his or her best friend, no need is more critical than climbing to the height of his or her career.
While many people discuss the importance of having “fun,” few are even aware of the importance of striving for happiness. Here are some reasons why happiness is important:
Happiness Brings Success
The standard bromide is that we are happy when we are successful. That is twisted. We become successful when we are happy. Happy people go after better jobs, try harder to better themselves, and supervisors tend to evaluate happy people more positively than non-happy people. In addition, happier people feel more confident to try creative problem-solving solutions and end up better managers. A University of Warwick research study reveals that happy workers were 10 percent more productive.
Happy People Enjoy Superior Relationships
None of us were made to be alone. We are a social species that get pleasure from interacting with others. But there are times it seems there are more bad relationships than good ones. If relationships are so important, why are so many of them messed up and difficult? It turns out that happy people have more friends and maintain healthier relationships. They bond with their group and feel less need for jealousy and putting others down.
This holds true specifically for marriage. Happier people are more satisfied with their relationship, and that holds especially true for married couples.
Happy People Are Less Stressed
People who don’t spend their days angry, jealous, or with other negative mindsets are far less stressed than those that do. Stress can alter the entire chemical balance of our bodies. It is a well-known fact that stress adversely affects our overall health and causes anxiety and depression. Stress is essentially a happiness killer. People who consciously work at being happy are far less likely to become a victim of the negative effects of stress. Happiness and stress are opposites.
Happy People Are Healthier
Our emotions do affect our health. Positive emotions, such as happiness, do affect our health positively. Genuinely happy people are much less affected by mental health problems associated with anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, etc.; negative emotions, such as bitterness and stress, will affect us negatively.
Happy people are far less likely to turn to instant comforts such as burgers, chocolate, chips, and gallons of sugared soda, so it is easier for them to maintain their health. Recent studies in Psychological Science suggest that married people with a happy spouse lead to both having a longer life. Happy couples were more likely to live overall healthier lives and were quicker at forgiving their spouse for any wrongdoing, thereby eliminating plenty of marital stress from their lives.
20 Happiness Quotes
Thinkers and philosophers have been obsessed with happiness for thousands of years. They have always understood the relationship between our mindset and our life. Below are just a few thoughts on the subject:
Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.– Marcus Aurelius
Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.– Mahatma Gandhi
I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition.– Oscar Wilde
Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.– Martha Washington
It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.– Abraham Lincoln
If you want to be happy, be.– Charles Spurgeon
True happiness is… to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future.– Leo Tolstoy
Happiness can exist only in acceptance.– Groucho Marx
Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.– George Orwell
Happiness is a direction, not a place.– Thomas Merton
The moments of happiness we enjoy take us by surprise. It is not that we seize them, but that they seize us.– Sydney J. Harris
Plenty of people miss their share of happiness, not because they never found it, but because they didn’t stop to enjoy it.– Ashley Montagu
You know it’s love when all you want is that person to be happy, even if you’re not part of their happiness.– William Feather
Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values.– Julia Roberts
Happiness is an inside job.– Ayn Rand
Happiness is inward, and not outward; and so, it does not depend on what we have, but on what we are.– Bertrand Russell
Happiness is like a kiss. You must share it to enjoy it.– Henry Van Dyke
Love is trembling happiness.– Bernard Meltzer
The most worthwhile thing is to try to put happiness into the lives of others.– Khalil Gibran
Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.– Robert Baden-Powell
What Fun Really Is
Fun is frequently used synonymously with play. What is fun, then? It is something that entertains without having a significant purpose. Generally, it refers to some specific activity, such as a hobby, a party, a vacation, etc. The desire for fun encourages us to try new things and meet new people, which can certainly lead to happiness.
When fun involves a hobby or travel, it can even be educational. When it involves a bottle of vodka, it can turn hedonistic. It’s all very subjective and much of it may be determined by the company we keep.
As a general rule, fun is a short-term fulfillment, while happiness is a lifelong endeavor. That, perhaps, is the major difference between the two concepts, and the difference can be subtle. Playing tennis every weekend to keep in shape and spend time with a friend is a Constitutionally protected act of pursuing happiness.
Playing tennis for the sole reason of humiliating our in-law (what fun!) only has short-term effects and can backfire come Thanksgiving.
It is important to understand that people may do a lot of “unfun” things to be happy. A parent may take on a second job for the satisfaction of putting his or her child through college. A person may narrow down his or her diet to mostly vegetables for a few weeks to fit into a special-occasion outfit.
Happiness tends to be a long-range vision and goal we can work toward, even if the work itself isn’t always fun.
Also, consider that the same activity may be fun one day and an excruciating chore the next. You take the bus to work on Monday morning and are miserable. That Friday evening, you take the bus to a concert to fulfill a lifelong dream of seeing your favorite singer, and you can barely contain your excitement, even though the act of taking the bus hasn’t changed.
There’s nothing wrong with a bit of fun, and happy people love to have fun.
Qualities that Happy People Possess
Happy people have a purpose in life. They decide to find the job, relationship, and/or home that answers their personal needs. This article attempts to define “happiness,” and it is not an easy task.
People have many different perceptions of what it will take to make them happy, and a lot of those perceptions could lead them to feel more miserable. Plenty of them are wrapped in myths about happiness.
Too many people refuse to be happy in the here and now and tell themselves:
- I will be happy when I make my first million.
- I will be happy when I find Ms./Mr. Right.
- I will be happy once I find a better job.
- How can I be happy when my spouse is cheating?
- How will I be happy when I am ill?
- I am old, and my life is over. Why bother with happiness?
Here is a happy thought: We are as happy as we chose to be. We always have choices. It’s up to us to make the rights ones. If our relationship is bad, we can leave. If our job is boring, we can find a more exciting one. It’s our life and our choices.
We are taught to work hard, do well in school, be polite to others, and to smile when Granma brings over a batch of her burnt chocolate cookies. How many of us have been taught and/or encouraged to pursue happiness?
Fortunately, it is a skill that can be learned.
- Spend time with happy people.
- Remain true to your core values.
- Appreciate the good things in your life.
- Many people become anxious imagining the worst. Switch your mindset and focus on the best.
- Keep telling yourself you deserve to be happy.
- Find a worthwhile purpose, whether it is adopting a puppy or saving the whales. Contributing to a better world contributes even more to your happiness.
- As the saying goes, “be the change you want to see.”
- Embrace change, because it will happen.