Happiness is Bigger Than You Think
When I started the Society of Happy People in 1998, our original slogan was, “Are You Happier Than You Admit You Are?”
The Society wanted people to pay attention to what they talked about. For example, were they talking about their happy moments as much as they talked about their unhappy ones? Did they do it with the same zest and enthusiasm with which they talked about their happiness zappers with?
One day, it occurred to me that if I wanted people to talk more about happiness, they needed to recognize more happiness.
Of course, that forced me to think about the definition of happiness. You usually know when you feel happy. It’s when you feel good, when you naturally smile, when you laugh, and when the small things really don’t bother you.
However, all happiness doesn’t always feel the same. The feelings can be different, and so can the causes. Think about these different happy moments and the different feelings that they evoke:
- There’s the happiness we feel when our child makes us smile – love
- There’s the happiness we feel when we accomplish a goal – satisfied
- There’s the happiness we feel when we’re at a party – celebrating
- There’s the happiness we feel when we do the right thing even when it’s hard – honorable
- There’s the happiness we feel when we anticipate going on vacation – enthusiastic
- There’s the happiness we feel when the worst didn’t happen – relief
- There’s the happiness we feel when our life is mostly drama free – content
- There’s the happiness we feel when we realize all of the good things we experience – blessed
- There’s the happiness we feel when we help someone – helpful
- There’s the happiness we feel when we do our best – proud
- There’s the happiness we feel when we feel connected to something bigger than ourselves – spiritual
- There’s the happiness we feel when we recall a memory from the past that makes us smile – nostalgic
- There’s the happiness we feel when others appreciate us – valued
There are many experiences that fall under the happiness umbrella because they make you feel good. Ironically, recognizing the many different types of happy feelings can be a little complicated, not because feeling good is complicated, but because you’re often oblivious to all of the little moments that make you happy. You take them for granted, and sometimes don’t even notice them.
When I started the Society, I was working in the mental health field. There was a popular poster, “What Am I Feeling Today?”, that therapists used to help clients recognize different feelings. It had 40 or more cartoon faces on it with names of feelings, since this was the pre-emoji era. For kicks, I divided the different types of feelings into categories—those that felt good, and those that felt bad. Once I tallied it up, the poster identified three negative feelings for every positive one.
That made me think: “Shouldn’t the poster have identified half happy and half unhappy feelings?” I wondered if the therapeutic community was inadvertently teaching people to identify more unhappy than happy feelings.
A few weeks later, at a company meeting, a coworker and I amused ourselves by identifying 18 Types of Happiness. Over the years, this list grew to 31 Types of Happiness, and has even changed a few times. There are actually more, but 31 Types of Happiness makes sense for the Society—a different type for each day of Happiness Happens Month in August.
Happiness isn’t linear. It’s not one size fits all. It’s also not stagnant. It is abundant. Happy moments happen all of the time—even in the midst of unhappy moments. It’s up to you to recognize them. When you do that, you realize that happiness is bigger than you think.
The Four Practical Happiness Principles?
- Happiness Zappers Are Manageable
- Happiness is Personal
- Happiness Changes as We Change
- Happiness is Bigger Than You Think