Clicking through pictures on Facebook and Instagram, I continually come face to face with “the happy couple,” “the perfect children” or the most wildly, fun and exciting lifestyle. However, the common phrase heard amongst friends and colleagues is “Facebook and Instagram are so depressing.”
Has social media created the illusion of an existence that is unattainable? And what is the bar on which we base our happiness? Prior to social media there were no standards for what our lives were supposed to look like other than perhaps that of our neighbors.
At the same time, as I scroll through my Twitter and Instagram feeds, I think to myself, have I ended up in the dreaded self-help section of the book store? My feeds consist of names like @lifetools or @dailytherapy, all providing motivational quotes or inspirational pictures with words of wisdom on life, love and happiness. I have become my own worst nightmare.
In a generation obsessed with social media, have we redefined the meaning of happiness and how it is measured? As we turn to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for daily affirmations in the hopes of guidance and fulfillment through life’s challenges, we also are reminded constantly of what we are lacking by the perceived perfection of the lives of our “friends.”
Perhaps we should be looking at our inner network rather than our social network.
“Happiness is what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony.” -Mahatma Gandhi
I lay there one night wrapped up in his arms, serenely dozing off, my mind nowhere else but in that moment. We had shut out the outside world. Turned off our phones. And turned off the nagging conflicts and issues that were often intruders on our relationship. We were in a neutral, safe place. He whispers to me, “Are you happy?” In that very moment, I was. But I know that is not what he meant. He was looking for something more, something grander. But how could I answer such a complicated question? And was I happy? My response to him was, “Yes, I think so… I’m getting there.”
What is there? Do any of us really know happiness when we have it?
All of these questions led me to wonder, what is happiness and can it be defined? We all know the laws of physics, the laws of motion, the laws of attraction, but can the same basic principles apply to happiness?
For instance, if we have A, B and C, will we have attained this so-called happiness? And if so, how can it be measured? But most importantly, can it be sustained beyond a fleeting moment before the outside world and those nagging intruders intrude?
So I took to Google, as we all do when we need answers immediately. (Does anyone Ask Jeeves anything anymore?) Google led me to Webster’s definition of happiness: “a state of well-being characterized by emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.”
If you ask anyone what they wish for themselves or for their children, almost all will respond with two basic needs –Health and Happiness. The former is a given. Yet if we have our health, what elements do we need to attain the latter? Each one of us will have different journeys to fulfillment.
For some it may be spiritual or religious, for others it may be material or superficial. For me, it’s neither. It’s not something I can label. It’s like describing the way a type of music sounds to someone if they have never heard it before — it’s virtually impossible.
Will I know it when I see it? I do know that I am not looking to be somewhere in the range of contentment to intense joy — I am looking for the intense joy, because what is this life without it?
“Life happens when you are busy making other plans.” – John Lennon
I like a plan. I like to know where I am going and how I am going to get there. I like having an equation that has a solution, albeit several ways to get there. So in the effort of figuring out what I needed to attain the extreme end of the happiness spectrum, I asked myself some questions.
I, like so many of us, have fallen into the trap of playing the IF game…the if I had more money, I would be happy…if I had a bigger home…if I vacationed more…if I were married…if I had more than just one child…if I were skinnier, prettier, etc …I would be happy.
And then there’s the WHAT IF game. What if I don’t get promoted? What if I don’t find love? What if I am alone forever? What if, what if, what if? I am the queen of this game. Do not challenge me to a round — I will run WHAT IF circles around you that will make your head spin. Blissful ignorance is clearly wasted on the young.
“Enjoy the little things for one day you will look back and realize they were the big things” -Robert Brault
But maybe that intense joy comes from a lifetime of all those small moments of happiness — lying in bed wrapped up in his arms, denying the noise of the outside world and those nagging intruders — instead of going through life, searching for the big event or the “if-I-had-more” mentality.
Maybe it is about those simple, fleeting moments of happiness. But it’s more than just that…it’s about recognizing the moment before it passes you by or slips away. It’s about noticing the smile it brings to your face in that very instant, capturing it, and then remembering how it feels.
Because, as my mother keeps telling me, practice makes perfect and habit will become instinct. “Keep smiling,” she says, “and eventually you will realize you are happy.”
Maybe she is on to something.
Meredith Massbury | Elite.