Mental Health Training

Happiness Is… By Jane McNeice

Posted by on 5 Aug, 2016 in Mental Health | 0 comments

Happiness Is… By Jane McNeice

Yesterday I got thinking about happiness, what it is what it isn’t, and everything in between. My motive for doing so (in part) precedes my delivery of the Action for Happiness ‘Exploring what Matters’ course in early 2017.

So I thought I’d start by seeing what the official line on the subject is, cue on-line Oxford English Dictionary definition,

“The state of being happy: she struggled to find happiness in her life; Tom’s heart swelled with happiness”

…which for me left things completely wanting, and so it was that I found myself back at the beginning of my thoughts. If the Oxford English Dictionary did serve something however, it was to highlight that happiness is personal. You can’t define it for someone else, only for oneself, and even then our failure to do so very easily may create a barrier to pursuing such happiness for oneself. Spark question number two, is happiness something one should, or can even pursue? Findings from the World Happiness Report (2015) suggest that yes we can learn this through training. I came to the initial conclusion that there ought to be some form of conscious happiness to have any chance at achieving this state of mind and body.

Happiness is both personal and subjective, with the research corroborating such subjectivity and challenges in defining it. Various themes, or happiness barometers, have been used in research as indicators of happiness, including subjective well-being, life satisfaction (DeJonge et al, 2015), trust, security, wealth, freedom, work, and democracy (The Happiness Research Institute, 2014), with a welcome shift away from monetary focused measures of cost-benefit analysis. With such subjectivity, much research comes in the form of self-assessment measures, and naturally limitations exist within this methodology. Notwithstanding the fascinating happiness research findings I came across, which include the happiest country being Switzerland (World Happiness Report, 2015), ultimately you and only you can define what happiness is for yourself.

For me, happiness is my family and myself being healthy and – here it comes again – happy, a certain amount of solitude and quiet (scarce on the ground in Casa McNeice), warm sun, reading, and other similar moments when I feel ‘in the zone’ or lost in the moment of time, content, and – apologies in advance – HAPPY. But happiness is fluid, too much solitude and I may find it less pleasurable, too much of a good thing so to speak, and so there has to be something about balance and ratio of the desired happiness fuel, whatever your happiness fuel takes the form of. Likewise, expectations of happiness need to be considered, do we expect to be happy 100% of the time, or happy enough 100% of the time. For many, to feel happy even 5% of the time may seem a challenge. What about intensity of the happiness experience and personal perceptions of this? Are we looking for hedonistic levels, or contented levels, and how do we really define each? Existing research being largely focused on poor states of mental well-being e.g. mental illness, low mood, depression (and by no means lesser valued areas of research) there hasn’t been nearly enough research about positive mental well-being and states of mind.

After my thoughtful afternoon I am left with possibly more questions then when I started, but I feel sure that there does need to be some form of what I would call ‘conscious happiness’ – the process of assessing this for yourself – and by having this we can learn to identify what our happiness comprises, and how we can work towards and/or maintaining this. As the findings of the World Happiness Report (2015) confirm, it is possible to enhance this for oneself through training and other personal development, and a personal note I’m really looking forward to both facilitating the ‘Happiness’ course and travelling a the road of ‘conscious happiness’ in the process.

If you’d like to attend the ‘Exploring What Matters’ course in January 2017, taking place in Barnsley (South Yorkshire), you can find out more here

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