How To Redefine Happiness To Make It Easier To Achieve

Learn what "S.P.I.R.E" stands for.

Courtesy of Billion Photos / Shutterstock
Courtesy of Billion Photos / Shutterstock

By Yvette Costa

Maybe you have seen a lot of press lately about happiness. It’s been hard to miss.

Happiness has been on the cover of Time, in US NewsCNN and in the NY Times, just to name a few. There is even an International Day of Happiness (March 20th) when the World Happiness Report is released.

If you haven’t picked up any of these articles you may be thinking to yourself, “Sure, everyone wants to be happy but my life is too busy to be running around wearing rose-colored glasses”, or some version of this basic idea. If this is you, read on to find out what all the buzz is actually about. HINT: It isn’t a great sale on rose-colored glasses.

Happiness and well-being have taken front stage due to the recent focus on the study of Positive Psychology. This field of study took form about twenty-five years ago when Martin Seligman, then a student in psychology, took notice that the field was only focusing on what was wrong with people. He turned that idea on its head and began to study what’s right with people. He wanted to understand what makes people happy, fulfilled and what makes them flourish. 

Since that time, many other psychologists have turned to the positive side of the profession and have produced a ton of data and books on what it actually takes to be happy. In the process, they have offered new views and several definitions of happiness.

One thing they do agree on is that we all want to be happy. After that, they have different views on what is included in happiness and how broad of a definition to offer. Here’s my take on what they all have in common.

Are you chasing happiness with a small ‘h’ or Happiness with a capital ‘H’?

Small ‘h’ happiness is all about positive emotions, feeling good, enjoyment, joy, fun….all of the positive states of being that we generally associate with being happy. It is what we think of when we envision living life with ‘rose colored’ glasses on.

This small ‘h’ happiness is about what’s happening the in the moment and labeling it as good or bad, desirable or undesirable. It is a limited perspective and doesn’t encompass all of the complexities of life. It also puts incredible pressure on us, as it implies that if we aren’t happy, then we must be unhappy. Read more on that here.

Additionally, from a Positive Psychology standpoint, this definition of happiness is not only limited, it is unsustainable from a physiological perspective and an overly simplified and unrealistic way to view happiness.

So if happiness isn’t feeling good, then what is it?

This is where Happiness with a capital ‘H’ comes into the picture. This way of thinking about and defining Happiness encompasses more than just good feelings. It looks at and takes into consideration the whole person, our whole being and what brings meaning and purpose to living. It goes beyond just feeling good and incorporates other aspects of life that science has shown to be important to us if we want to live a Happy and meaningful life.

One framework offered by the WholeBeing Institute is S.P.I.R.E., which stands for:

Spiritual Wellbeing – Leading a meaningful life and being present in the moment.

Physical Wellbeing – Caring for the body and tapping into the mind/body connection.

Intellectual Wellbeing – Engaging in deep learning and being open to new experiences.

Relational Wellbeing – Nurturing a constructive relationship with self and others.

Emotional Wellbeing – Feeling and accepting ALL emotions and reaching towards resilience and optimism.

Embracing this view of Happiness not only allows for, but expects there to be times when you aren’t experiencing positive emotions. You may not be happy (small ‘h’) but you can still be Happy (capital ‘H’).

This broader perspective lets us ‘off the hook’ in a way, so that we don’t have to be Pollyanna, upbeat and positive all of the time to believe that we are Happy. It is more realistic and attainable than simply viewing the world through rose-colored glasses. It takes the complexity of being a human being into the equation and puts Happiness into an attainable and more appropriate framework.

Taking a S.P.I.R.E. approach to Happiness allows you to gain perspective as you continually grow, experience life with all of its ups and downs and still consider yourself to be Happy and to experience Happiness.

Here is a simple way to start bringing S.P.I.R.E. into your daily life. Ask yourself this question each day, and frame your response in the elements of S.P.I.R.E.:

“If everything goes as well as it possible can today, what will that look like; Spiritually? Physically? Intellectually? Relationally? And Emotionally?”

If you commit to starting your day in this way, I’m confident that you will begin to experience not only more capital ‘H’ Happiness but also more small ‘h’ happiness as well.

Originally published on Ellevate.

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