Mindful Musings: The Pursuit of Happiness

Mindful Musings: The Pursuit of Happiness

This week, I’ve found myself wrestling with some thoughts about how I use the word “happy”. It means different things to different people. For some, it’s the general vibe they give off every day, as they walk around with smiles on their faces and radiate positivity – “they are a happy person!” For others, it may be a loaded term, as it is more like a goal they can achieve – the pursuit of happiness, if you will.

Years ago, I would have fallen into the camp of people who were in the pursuit of happiness. I thought I could buy my happiness, which is why I filled my apartment with brand new furniture (that I paid for with credit) and financed a brand new car. I also thought I could drink my way to happiness. I’m grateful it didn’t take too many years for me to see these were only temporary solutions to bigger problems.

As you know, the past couple of months have been a little tough, and it has taken a toll on my mental health. I actually feel more self-aware than ever, right now, and feel like I have a much better handle on my anxiety than I did a few weeks ago. But when a friend asked if I was happy, I knew I had to be honest: not right now, but sometimes! I feel happy at least a few times every day. :)

I feel happy when I get text messages and phone calls from friends and family. I feel happy when I laugh. I feel happy when I get into a body of water. I feel happy when I walk on a trail and pay attention to how the ground feels beneath the soles of my shoes. I feel happy when I challenge myself on a hike and am surprised to discover how well my hip is doing. And I feel really happy when I get to the viewpoint.

I could continue on with this list, but the point is that I’m learning happiness isn’t something you can pursue – it’s the feeling of contentment in any given moment. It’s never going to be all good. Bad things happen, and bad feelings come along for the ride. But the happy moments… they are special, and they are worth remembering. Here are a few blogs written by online friends who feel the same. <3

  • Sarah’s ideas for how to feel good (or any other way you want to feel) are fantastic.
  • I’m a big believer in the power of keeping a gratitude journal. If you need some ideas for what to write, as you start yours, here is a list of 50 things I pulled from mine last year.

“Having it all” isn’t about the monumental life events — the promotion, the wedding, the mortgage — but, instead, the moments. The pizza shared with your best friend, the laughter on the phone with your mum, the song sung at the top of your lungs. That’s the stuff that’s truly worth chasing and having. That’s all any of us ever truly have. – Bianca Bass

Slow living is for connection, for community. For looking a crossing guard in the eye when we thank them. For making the time to help the woman in aisle 9 find the olives. For having the space in our day to welcome an impromptu visit from neighbors, for having the space in our mind to open the door wide even though the hallway’s a mess. – Erin Loechner

PS – This picture was taken by my friend Paul Jarvis. It’s from the Goldstream Trestle, which I have hiked to on many Adventure Tuesday’s!

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  • I think a lot of times people think happiness is the finish line. Something that will come later when you’ve achieved more and when you have more. That’s sort of the story that is pushed in modern culture. You need to do x, y, and z so that you can be happy in the future. It is a tough trap to break out of.

    And I completely understand the idea of feeling more self-aware after a down period. While it always sucks to go through anxiety and struggles, we often come out the other side much more aware and better off.

  • Oh Cait. I’m sorry but I appreciate these resources. I will use them too. Just remember, when you talk about anxiety on your podcast, there’s someone out there (me) listening to your podcast in a parking lot in Iowa because she’s anxious too! You are a great person, kind and funny and smart, and it comes through to even people who don’t know you. And I agree about the happiness. I read somewhere about the fine slices of happiness or of joy, the little moments. That helps me. My dog’s little face in my hand, the first coffee of the day, watching the tulips bloom.

  • I’m sorry to hear you’re going through a rough time right now! Hang in there! I actually really appreciated your post about 10% happier the other day. It’s something I’ve been thinking about ever since, and I plan to check out the book from the library today.

    Other cultures in the world don’t seem to share our obsession with happiness. It’s interesting. The irony is that sometimes the happiness we truly seek comes about when we give up looking for it and accept that it’s okay to be “just okay” sometimes. Not suffering, but not particularly awesome either. Just okay. Learning to embrace “just okay” has often helped me relieve a lot of anxiety of my own.

  • Happiness is the “feeling of contentment in any given moment”. How true. I’ve often marveled at vivacious, bubbly people who seem happy all the time. Were they born that way? Is it their disposition? Can that be learned? For me all I know is that if I can string many of those moments of contentment in a given day, I’m good.

    I’m sorry life has been tough lately but I applaud you for digging deep. You are kind and thoughtful, and very courageous because you’re not afraid to bare your soul. I know more good things await you.

  • I recently read “Spontaneous Happiness” by Dr. Andrew Weil. He said something that really resonated with me and that’s the idea that happiness is not black and white, it’s more like a continuum that we all have a natural setpoint on, and that we can move that setpoint through various tips and techniques he offers. We need to accept and be okay with the fact that we will not be happy 24/7/365. This concept is often what I meditate on and I have found myself slowly moving my setpoint towards the brighter side of life. My anxiety is still there sometimes but I now have better tools to deal with it and it no longer overwhelms me.

  • I’ve been sorry to hear you’ve been going through a difficult time. I can relate to the anxiety you’ve been experiencing and I’m glad you are finding ways to cope. It seems that its these times of adversity that make us appreciate the ‘small things’. I can really relate to this post today! Thank you for these resources. I’ve been reading ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck’ and if you haven’t read it you may find it relevant as well.

  • Honestly I suppost all of us isn’t happy at 100% all day but we are hapy on little things you described well, I have a rule find at least one things every day and be grateful and happy about it #littlethings #enjoythelittlethings and remember you’re not alone:D

  • I was talking to a client yesterday and she felt guilty because she was feeling low. I do that at times too, but we can’t be happy all the time. We are complex human beings with histories, perspectives, and things happening outside of us every day. And so, I told my client – it’s okay to feel what you feel and be who you are in this moment. If you try to deny your feelings they won’t process and will be stored up for later. Recognize it is time to rest and nurture yourself, trusting you will feel better soon.

    And, this is what I truly believe. It’s resisting the not being okay that causes the most pain because it is based in judging yourself for how you feel.

    Okay, I think you inspired me to get philosophical, but the bottom line is that I wholeheartedly agree with you.

  • Nice blog and makes a lot of sense. For me, happiness waxes and wanes and each day it looks different but most days, if I really think about things, I am happy. Not over the moon, crazy, laughing happy but feeling ok about things. now, does that mean my anxiety is not always looming, no, but I try and be happy each day. I do work at it but then again, my cats help me be happy because they make me feel as if life is good!
    I love reading your blogs Cait and am beginning the Shopping Ban on Monday. I have some habits i need to break so this will not be easy but I am ready for the challenge or else I will keep drowning in debt.
    Peace, Nancy

  • We all need that go to place when we are feeling down. It happens to us all. Mine is a walk in the woods, or if I am in the city I like to find a natural walkway or any walkway with river walks being preferred. Stop , Look and Listen with your senses . Thoughts ,feelings and sights you would never expect just come to you. If you can at least an hour walk by yourself can cleanse your being at least for the day or more. If that does not work. Find a book, or call a friend you haven’t talked to in years.

  • This year I bought the Happiness Journal from Kikki K – my main use for it is to keep track of projects, to dos, accomplishments etc but I chose this one in particular for all the prompts and questions it has around things that make you happy and feel good. It’s really helping me to focus on the right things and stay on track :)

  • I’ve long thought there is a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is a fleeting feeling, something that can be gained or lost in a moment. Joy is something deeper..something down in your bones…that helps you remain content and calm even when troubles arise. From my view, you can be a joyful person but still experience unhappiness.

    I can’t say I came up with the idea on my own though. I’m Catholic, and joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. So my belief is that the Holy Spirit hands you joy and because it comes from a divine source, it can’t be easily taken from you.

  • Thanks for being honest about not being happy all the time! The first time I realized my default greeting was “I’m great how are you?” (regardless of how I was actually feeling) was when I joined a yoga studio. The owner always answered honestly when asked “how are you?” And it was incredibly offputting at first until I realized we are allowed to be authentic with our feelings and emotions. We don’t always have to put on a smile when we’ve had a crap day. We can embrace the fact that we’ve had a crap day and then move on!

  • Cait,

    One of the times I am happy is when I see on my reader that you have posted a new article! You have a great gift of putting words to paper or the ether. :)

    Anyway just wanted to drop a note to say keep up the great work and thanks for putting some happiness in your readers’ world!

    Mick