How do you know when you’re Happy?

Berkeley Public Library

When I was young and naive I thought once I was a ‘older’ I would be happy. When I was older and naive I thought once I was ‘independent’ I would be happy. When I became independent and naive I thought once I got ‘a lot more money’ I would be happy.

Clearly, I’m a flippin’ idiot.

If you’re asking yourself well why have you remained naive all throughout this time? that’s not what qualifies my idiocy but the belief in a concept that’s popularly recognised as happiness.

It wasn’t until two and a half decades had past since I gained experiential knowledge in this world that I realised, the problem isn’t of not being good enough to find happiness but the very illusion of happiness in it’s entirety.

Sourced from Grub Street

I don’t know about you but I grew up in a culture mediated with this compulsive need to be happy so when I looked into it I realised that it began in 1926 when ‘Happy Birthday’ song was first composed followed by McDonald’s ‘Happy Meal’ in 1979 but the search for happiness began much earlier with philosophers such as John Locke proposing inherent happiness levels.

If the notion of happiness has been fabricated time and again I wondered, have we lost it’s meaning in search of redefining it each time?

You can literally find thousands of articles online on this topic perhaps only adding to the confusion as mine is right now. Which means I can only tell you my story, my relationship with this ephemeral invention that we have come to accept as a natural thing.

After searching for happiness over two decades I reconciled with my naivety about this whole concept, every time I thought ‘yes, that’s what happiness is and I’ll get that’ it soon transpires into something else and then the goalpost is changed.

Mindless Searching

So after mindlessly looking for happiness everywhere, at home, my personal life, professional life and even in everyday mundaness it came to me one day as I was lying in bed looking up at the blank ceiling imagining everything that it could be and what I could be when I finally get happiness.

No, I am not going to tell you to choose happiness or that happiness is the journey not a destination because none of that worked for me.

What did change was realising this commercially packaged happiness was not just untrue but completely irrelevant to me. Sure, it feels good to make money, spend time with your loved ones and even feel good about yourself but that is not about happiness as much as it is about living.

“Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so.” — John Stuart Mill

This quote probably best sums up my consolations towards happiness, I cannot help but feel a sense of loss because we live in a world where not identifying with this ever-changing notion of happiness means you will be treated as one who is deprived. Nonetheless, it doesn’t mean I have to internalise this imposed inadequacy into my life and that truly does make me happy.

Bhavani Esapathi is a writer & speaker on digital culture, technology and social innovation. She is also the Founder of The Invisible Labs; a social tech initiative on helping those with chronic conditions live better. Say hi on Twitter @bhaesa.