Happiness is one out of many positive emotions. In Brené Brown’s list of core emotions, she lists good emotions such as belonging, empathy, excited, gratitude, curious, joy, love, and surprised. But even feelings that I don’t like can bring positive moments into my life: anger can lead to action; anxiety can lead to safety; grief comes from love.
Psychologist Daniel Kahneman mentions that we don’t really want to be happy–we want to be satisfied with our lives. Happiness can be fleeting, but satisfaction lasts a whole lot longer and is built from goals and hard work. We work and live more to be satisfied, not to be happy.
Yet in many conversations with others and in my own thought patterns, I am often dwelling on happiness. Am I happy? Is someone I love happy? But if happiness is fleeting, how is that a good measure of my life being in a positive space?
I felt happy yesterday. We went up into the mountains and I was canoeing around on a lake surrounded by evergreen trees, racing the sun as it slowly slipped behind the mountain. I assembled fishing poles for my children and watched the video Dillon had taken of the fish that almost landed in the canoe.
That was happy. But the happiness didn’t last forever. I can’t have moments like that my whole life–and I don’t want to. This morning, I sat and worked on studying and learning and writing–and those things don’t directly bring me happiness, but I like that I do them.
Lori Gottlieb mentions that people can change their life by changing the stories they tell themselves. So if I change my story so that I’m not always dwelling on happiness and searching after happiness, maybe I would become more satisfied with my life, more able to pursue what I really value.