If you are not sad, does that mean you are happy?
“The absence of disease is not the same as health, just as the absence of poverty is not the same as wealth.” — Dan Baker and Cameron Stauth
Happiness is a condition created by you.
Most people go around thinking that happiness is simply the absence of unhappiness, that by somehow eliminating sadness will automatically mean you’re happy. Unfortunately, all you will be left with is less sadness. While that might be a key ingredient in happiness, it is not, in itself, happiness.
Happy is as Happy Does
If you want to be happy, you have to do things that intentionally create happiness because it requires effort and action. It is created by thinking and doing things with happiness in mind. Happiness is more than a static state of being; happy is as happy does.
I believe the level of one’s happiness is directly related to the number of options she has for creating it. Rather than have one really powerful way of creating happiness, it’s better to have 10 or more smaller ones. Why? Because when things go wrong with one option, and things often do go wrong, you have 9 other options to fall back on. It’s like taking a road trip: starting out with a few routes in mind relaxes you because you’re sure you’ll get there, one way or another.
My Happiness Menu
I love to fitness train. Yes, I actually love to sweat, push my body to the edge, and I even love sore muscles (well, that may be pushing the definition of love . . . but you know what I mean.) It makes me happy to challenge myself, and the results allow me to stay actively connected with my sons. To ensure I always have access to happiness, I have a menu of options from which to choose, here are a few:
- Running inside or outside
- Jumping rope
- Indoor Rock Climbing
- Weight Training
- Hula Hoop Dance (really)
- Martial Arts
- Group fitness
ROI Power Boost
As if that’s not enough, I found ways to boost the ROI on my happiness actions by combining fitness with other happy activities.
- Coaching and Teaching combined with Fitness
- 26+ years as a professional group and private fitness coach (a 3’fer really because I also earn money—which makes me happy.)
- ‘Dates’ with my husband combined with Fitness
- Rock climbing on a Friday night or ballroom dance lessons
Building a Reserve
Never be without a clear path to happiness. I recently suffered a cervical spine injury that put me on the sidelines for a while. There was a period of time in which I felt lost and without options for happiness because the pain was pretty severe. Thankfully, I was able to pull out of the nose dive quickly because I had such an extensive reserve of options to fall back on. Without having intentionally created these options, I would have lingered in unhappiness and the process of regaining my active lifestyle would have taken much longer.
Sure, it may be tough to get off the couch or off the sidelines and get into action. Perhaps it requires a shift in your thinking first. Rather than focus on things that make you sad and unhappy, think about what makes you laugh, feel proud, or moves you to be generous with other people. Sure, it’s natural to think that zapping the sad things will make you happy, but I hope now you’ve come to realize the distinction between less sad, happier, and happy. Going for less sad and happier aren’t enough, you’ve left way too much on the table.
Begin to view happiness as the result of actions taken to be happier rather than actions taken to be less sad. See creating happiness as a recurring activity in itself. By focusing on the joyful things in life, and by doing happy things, you won’t have time for sadness.
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What do you think about the creation of happiness versus the reduction of sadness? As you define the things that make you happy, do you find enough options? If not, what will you do about that?