It’s the sensation most of us strive for. It’s the mother of all positive feelings which is the reason why we want to create more of it or even make it a constant in our lives. But happiness in all its reality is nothing but a feeling. And if we know one thing about feelings, it is that they come and go. So what happens when we strive for something that fleets? We feel a sense of short-coming when we can’t achieve it even though it’s absolutely normal to not always feel happy. The myth of happiness is so much in our heads that when we look on social media and see all these posts of poeple seemingly living super happy lives, we may feel lesser than.
So, what if instead of happiness we concentrated on cultivating a general sense of well-being which we can draw from even when we feel low? Unlike happiness well-being is not dependent on circumstances outside of us. And it doesn’t depend on doing but welcomes a state of being just as we are.
I think of happiness as more of a temporary state that feels good in the moment which evokes positive and engergizing emotions. It is most often circumstantial – dependent on certain conditions. However it’s not realistic to feel happy all the time. Wellbeing however is not dependent on our mood.
- Sometimes I’m sad but there can still be a feeling of well-being alongside this. This happens when there is a deep sense of connection and support by others and a connection with oneself. When we can meet our own pain and suffering with self-compassion, kindness and give ourselves the permission to really feel our feelings. And when we can do things to take care of ourselves in small but impactful ways, well-being can co-exist alongside whatever emotion we are feeling.
- Well-being does not depend on circumstance. I am happy when I spend time with my children or my friends, doing things I enjoy. I experience well-being because I have deep, meaningful relationships and connections in my life. Even when I am not around them, I can draw upon that feeling of connection, love and support.
- Well being is not dependent on doing. I am happy when I play tennis. And I am connected to or in alignment with the things that most deeply matter to me. I feel happy when I buy a nice pair of shoes. But that happiness fades. When I live my life in alignment with what matters to me – creating, connecting, teaching, inspiring, helping there’s a sense of well-being present, even if I am not actively doing those things I feel connected to that energy, purpose and meaning it nourishes me.
- Well being is not a quick fix. It is a deep well. I am happy eating chocolate but I feel well-being when I nourish myself with food that helps me experience long-term health. I am happy when I get likes on my posts but I experience well-being from contributing or sharing something authentic because I believe it matters, regardless of the outcome.
Here are a few questions to reflect on what may help you create well-being in your life.
- Try to give yourself permission to feel however you feel, instead of shaming yourself for not living up to the happiness myth.
- Make a list of some of the things that make you happy and another one where you write down times when you have felt a deep sense of well-being. Notice what is similar and what is different. From looking at this, do you have sense of anything else that might help you cultivate well-being?
- What are the things that most nourish you in your life? Have those things remained the same over the years or have they changed?
- Is there a place, perhaps in nature, in which you experience well-being or in your imagination? What does well-being feel like in your mind and body when you are there? How is it similar or different from times when you feel happy? What states of mind (e.g. perspective, mindfulness, equanimity) and what bodily states (e.g. calmness, peacefulness, certain movements) help you cultivate well-being?