I’m on the pursuit of happiness, or am I?

By Ruwan Teodros

Kirstin Mckee Flickr
(Kirstin Mckee Flickr)

If you were going to rate your happiness level yesterday on a scale of one to 10, what would it be? How about today? How about in general?

Society constantly pushes us toward the idea that in order to live a successful life, we should be happy. It is embedded in us, this idea that happiness is the ultimate objective of life and that there are certain steps that we can take in order to fulfill this goal. Usually, the stereotypical path to a “happy life” involves finding love with a significant other, having children and then bouncing grandchildren on your knees until you pass.

This model has evolved somewhat over time, but I used to frequently be asked questions about my single mother, “Is she actually happy on her own? Doesn’t she want to at least try to settle down again?” These are probing questions, ones that people have no right to ask in respect to a person’s privacy. Nevertheless, they remain popular. From the moment we enter the world, we are taught that having children will make you happy and that you should create a family with another person to live your life with. We enter the world alone, but are misunderstood later on in life if we are still alone.

What makes you happy? How often are you happy in a day? In a week? Do you think your happiness can be measured?

A good amount of research has been done on the correlation between success and happiness, and whether either of them has a direct effect on the other. A research study conducted by Sonja Lyubomirsky, Laura King and Ed Diener reviewed numerous other studies and found that “happy individuals are successful across many life domains, including marriage, income, work performance, and health.” They propose that happiness is linked to successful outcomes because people experiencing positive moods and emotions “signifies that life is going well, the person’s goals are being met, and resources are adequate.”

However, the way I see it, a person doesn’t necessarily need material success to be happy. Instead they can rely on simpler, smaller things to keep them content. In some cases, people are happier taking the road less travelled by and don’t base their happiness on personal success. Even better, some people learn that you do not have to be happy everyday—that isn’t living.

What does it mean to be happy? Do you think it is possible to be happy all the time? What is your idea of success? Do you feel like you are able to be more productive when you experience positive moods?

Living through ups and downs and experiencing bouts of distress are integral to people’s life stories. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it weren’t for times that I suffered in some way, whether it was from stress or emotional trauma. Sometimes you need to have bad days in order to appreciate the good days. I plan to keep living my life on my own terms and embrace all aspects of it, instead of focusing on feeling happy all the time.

Ruwan Teodros is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]