Some forms and flavors of happiness….
Pleasure and enjoyment. Pleasure in sun, beauty, food, friendship, touch, etc. This has obvious evolutionary roots. We need food to survive, so find pleasure in good food. We need friendship and social connections to survive and thrive, so find pleasure in friendships. And so on. This is also a form of happiness in meeting goals, in having life align with simple shoulds, hopes, and expectations. The sense of happiness tends to be immediate and fleeting, although still very enjoyable and an important part of our everyday life.
Meaning and engagement. We can find a sense of meaning in many ways, perhaps most often through a sense of connection with something larger than ourselves. We can have a sense of meaning and purpose in existence itself, and in our own existence. A sense of belonging, of connection with a larger social, ecological, and cosmic whole. And a sense of meaning and purpose in our personal life through relationships, activities, work, study, engagement, and more.
And engagement is another source or flavor of happiness. Engagement often comes from a sense of meaning, connection, and purpose, and can take many forms. We can be engaged in family or social life, in work or any activity. We can be engaged on behalf of others, the wider social and ecological whole, or future generations. We can also be engaged in working on ourselves.
Any meaningful engagement gives a sense of satisfaction and happiness. And this can coexist with a range of (other) emotions. It is here relatively independent of surface emotions.
Contentment and quiet joy. We can be content in different ways. I am content when life aligns with my shoulds, hopes, and expectations, although it is transient and a somewhat precarious contentment. I find contentment when I allow experience as it is, with kindness, and no matter what its content may be. I experience contentment when I find the genuine gifts in life as it is, and when I find what is more honest for me than my initial beliefs. There is contentment when I find a genuine love of what is. There is contentment in a sense of connection with a larger whole. And there is contentment when identification releases out of images of an I and me.
Related to this is a quiet joy in experience itself. This is most easily noticed when there is a sense of contentment, a release of the struggle, and it seems to be inherent in experience itself, independent of (other) content of experience, and independent of whether it is noticed or not.
There are many other facets, expressions, and causes of happiness, such as gratitude, forgiveness, rejoicing in the happiness of others, and so on.
Some forms of happiness are apparently highly dependent on circumstances, such as pleasure and enjoyment, although even these have everything to do with how we relate to ourselves and the world. The more we explore each, the more we see how they each relate to each other, and the shared dynamics of them all.
Enjoying the simple pleasures can give the space and motivation to find a sense of meaning and purpose, and become more engaged in life. A sense of meaning and engagement in life gives the calm to more thoroughly enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Contentment makes it easier to find a sense of meaning and engagement, and enjoy the pleasures of life.
What about the shared dynamics? Looking a little further, I find that happiness comes in two ways. There is happiness when life aligns with my shoulds. And there is happiness when there is a softening or release of these shoulds.
And this softening or release of shoulds (beliefs, identification with a viewpoint) happen when I allow experience as is, with kindness. And when I notice and inquire into my shoulds to find what is more honest for me.
Note: After I wrote this, I realized I had left out an important form of happiness. The satisfaction that comes from living with integrity, or in the direction of more integrity. This is closely related to living from a sense of meaning and purpose. And as we examine beliefs, it comes from living from what is more honest for us than our initial views.
Note 2: This is a fertile area for research. Are there groupings of several of these types of happiness? (For instance as suggested above.) Is there a connection between some of these types of happiness (for instance meaning, engagement, integrity, contentment) and resiliency or post-traumatic growth? Do some of these types protect against stress, depression, substance abuse, physical illness, etc. more than the others? Which practices and interventions work the best for promoting these forms of happiness? What is the connection between personality and these types of happiness? Are there some types of personality traits that predispose us for certain forms of happiness?
- different flavors
- pleasure, enjoyment
- more immediate
- surface emotions
- meeting goals, life aligned with beliefs/shoulds, pleasures of food, nature, friendships etc.
- evolutionary + aligned w. beliefs
- sense of meaning in existence – existence in general + one’s own life
- sense of belonging, connection, purpose, part of larger social/ecological/cosmic systems
- sense of meaning in personal life – relationships, activities etc.
- can have deep sense of meaning independent of surface emotions
- engaged in life, meaningful activities etc.
- engaged from a sense of connection, meaning, purpose
- f.es. engaged on behalf of others, wider social/ecological whole, future generations
- life aligned w. beliefs/shoulds
- allow experience as is
- finding the gifts in life as is, the validity in reversals of initial/familiar stories
- loving what is – allow experience, find gifts in it, connection w. larger whole
- quiet joy
- quiet joy in experience, independent of (other) content of experience
- seemingly inherent in experience itself
- better organization
- pleasure, enjoyment
- contentment/quiet joy
- pleasure, enjoyment
- gratitude, forgiveness, rejoicing in the happiness of others etc.
- are facets, expressions, and causes of happiness
- independent of other flavors, variations of same/similar flavor, or mutually influencing
- f.ex. can have meaning w/out much pleasure, or other way around
- pleasure and meaning, relatively independent of each other
- but meaning and engagement more closely related
- and contentment and quiet joy, also more closely related
- contentment makes it easier to notice the quiet joy that is already here
- different flavors
— life aligned w. should
— or release of should
And they are all related to – for instance – resistance and beliefs as well. When there is resistance to experience, there is unease and less room for happiness. And when there is a belief, there is a should that inevitably is at odds with life as it is or can be. This creates resistance to experience, and unease, discomfort, a sense of precariousness, and less room for happiness.
And they are all related to – for instance – resistance and beliefs as well. When there is resistance to experience, there is unease and less room for happiness. Going a little further, I find that when there is a belief, there is a should that inevitably is at odds with life as it is or can be. This creates resistance to experience, and unease, discomfort, a sense of precariousness, and less room for happiness.
One of the things this all boils down to is belief. Any belief is a should, and this should is inevitably at odds with life as it is or may be, and this creates a sense of unease and precariousness, which in turn makes less room for happiness. There is identification with a particular viewpoint, life will inevitably – at some point – be at odds with this viewpoint, so there is stress and discomfort.