Personal Growth Philosophy

What it Means to Be Happy

If there’s something that we all have in common as humans, it’s our search for happiness. We go above and beyond to make sure we reach that point where we can finally say that we’re happy. But in most cases, we do not even know what that even means.

There is a common misconception that true bliss can be so difficult to achieve, if ever. Some people tend to overwork themselves, claim that it is productivity, and expect it to make them happy. Others attempt to find happiness in romantic partners.

However, this brings up serious questions about the steps people think are required to achieve true happiness.

Happiness is Subjective

People tend to start their search for happiness by focusing their energy on what people around them believe brings them happiness. They look at others and see what makes them happy, apply it to themselves, and get disappointed when it doesn’t work out.

Little do they know, there’s no one way of attaining happiness. The complexity of happiness goes above and beyond the human mind. Humans are so different that the idea of happiness varies from one person to another. If true happiness is actually attainable, it can only be achieved through our perception of the world and within ourselves.

Happiness is a Mood

Happiness is a mood; that is, it’s a temporary state of wellbeing that experiences emotions, such as joy. Seeking happiness as a constant state of being is unachievable nor realistic because life is always changing, rarely do things stay the same.

You can’t plan for everything that might change, including what you might want, which is all the more reason to go with the flow. Accepting what life throws at us is necessary, particularly because we cannot set expectations on something so ever-changing and cannot be anticipated.

Happiness is based on your response to your problems. We cannot be in control of the events that might disrupt our happy mood, but we can change the way we think about those particular events. You can choose to be happy by learning how to respond situations that irritate you and by having realistic expectations.

Life Can Hit You Hard

It’s important to recognize human faults and finitude. Epictetus, a prominent Stoic philosopher, proposes that one can avoid the feelings of pain and desire by acknowledging that undesirable events may occur at any time.

“Let death and exile, and all other things which appear terrible, be daily before your eyes, but death chiefly; and you will never entertain an abject thought, nor too eagerly covet anything”.


In other words, we must be aware that misfortunes are inevitable in life in order to avoid the feeling of unnecessary pain. Worrying about and fearing death, for instance, will only cost us our mental health since we cannot change human mortality. If we do not accept the reality of such foreseeable events, we will be exhausted due to unrealistic expectations.

As I mentioned earlier in a post, we can learn from the Stoics to regulate our emotions by differentiating between things that are within our control and those that aren’t.

Epictetus asserts that one should “remove [the habit of] aversion from all things that are not within our power, and apply it to things undesirable which are within our power”. This is plausible in the case of people getting distressed after having been through a negative experience they have no control of. It would be foolish of someone to experience sadness as a result of something out of their control, as this feeling will not change the situation.

For instance, it is common for sportsmen to lose competitions. The wisest thing to do is move on and work harder for the next competition rather than getting discouraged. That does not necessarily mean that they should not work hard for the upcoming tournament, but rather accept what life throws at you and plan your next step with no negative feelings. Success is never guaranteed in any situation. Hence, despite how much thought one gives to a certain event or outcome, it is a useless to be concerned about the things one cannot control.

It’s important to point out that the Stoics, and Epictetus in particular, take the idea of indifference to an extreme level. We can find a middle ground by letting ourselves feel the emotions, but regulate them in such a way that they do not take a toll on us. Having a mindset that allows you to deal with unpleasant situations in such a way that it does not sacrifice your happiness can make a huge difference in your life.

Enjoy the Little Things

While we are too busy with the fanatical pursuit of a lifelong happiness, which ironically leaves us less happy, we often forget that enjoying the simple pleasures is within our grasp. We don’t realize that something so little can improve our well-being and can make life more enjoyable.

Little things as simple as a brief eye contact with a stranger, waking up and realizing that we have a lot of time to sleep, or getting a cute compliment from a beloved one, is more enough to make our heart tick. All we need is some awareness.

Wasting time dwelling on the things we lack is a waste of time. We need to pay more attention to what we have. We need to see the world in a slightly different way, appreciate and treasure it more, because how we perceive things is ultimately what defines our level of happiness.

More than simply positive mood, happiness is a state of well-being that encompasses living a good life—that is, with a sense of meaning and deep contentment.

9 replies on “What it Means to Be Happy”

Love the Epictetus quote, he’s one of my favorite Stoics! I also like this one from the good emperor Marcus Aurelius: Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.


I’ve heard it said that “Happiness does not take its own temperature.”

To me, happiness is a byproduct of how one approaches, deals, conquers (or not), accepts (or not), examines and lives one’s life. Pursuit of happiness? It’s not a thing, really. It’s like seeking love. “Today, I’m going to go out and find somebody to love.” No, sorry, that’s not how that works.
Perhaps the occurrence of happiness is more like the Boy Scouts motto: be prepared. If one prepares oneself, as you mention through study of the Stoics, perhaps, one may find, one day, upon examination, that one is indeed, happy.

I have a quote at the bottom of my email. It’s from Albert Camus: “One must imagine Sisyphus, happy.”


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