After spending the first 8 months of 2011 grieving and trying to get my life back together after losing both my sister and father in 3 months, I realized it was time for me to focus on me. Having been a pleaser and caretaker most of my life, this task felt daunting and I didn’t even know where to begin.
But as most things go, the Universe helped me out. A friend lent me a book about happiness by Dr. Robert Holden and immediately I knew I wanted to learn not only more about his ideas BUT also how to facilitate this work. Next thing, I was signing up to attend his happiness coaching certification in New York. I was finally ready to learn precisely how to be happy.
There are different kinds of happiness (who knew?)
Robert defined happiness as pleasure, satisfaction and joy.
Pleasure is a great piece of chocolate, a superb glass of wine. It’s what we enjoy through our senses, our bodies. And it feels good!
However, pleasure relies on a stimulus. I need to drink my coffee in order to feel pleasure and then when my coffee's gone, so is that pleasurable experience. It’s also exclusive to me. For example, I like dark chocolate but my daughter likes milk chocolate. Pleasure exists in duality too meaning that it has an opposite… pain.
We’ve all experienced pleasure, right? And pain…
The second kind of happiness we experience is satisfaction.
Satisfaction is the type of happiness most researched. So for you what’s satisfaction? Is it a job well done? A task completed? That feeling after you’ve finished a work out?
Satisfaction again is a result of something else. It’s causal like pleasure. "I am happy because…I ran 2 miles, got an A on that paper, have great friends…”
The cool thing about satisfaction is that it feels good AND it increases our ability to access gratification helping us be receptive to more satisfaction. We also experience it emotionally and mentally.
Satisfaction has a few problems though. Again, it’s short lived and exists in duality with its opposite being dissatisfaction. It can also be influenced by expectation and comparison and is largely based on our emotions.
The third definition or kind of happiness is joy.
What does joy mean to you? I like to think of joy as happy for no reason. It shares some attributes with pleasure since we feel joy physically. We can also experience it mentally and emotionally like satisfaction. But it’s more than any of those things in fact joy is simply bigger that our bodies, our egos, our personalities.
It’s pretty hard to define joy but we sure can describe it!
It’s happiness that bubbles out of us effortlessly. It’s the smile you can’t take off. And joy has specific qualities to it.
The first one is constancy.
Joy never goes away. WE wander away from joy when our attention and awareness strays but joy is always there for us to access.
Joy is the source of creativity.
It's the fountain. For those of us who grew up with the idea of the tortured artist, this is a big reversal. Turns out that joy feeds our creativity way more, hmmmm.
Joy is unreasonable.
That’s the “I’m happy for no reason.” Simply because. I'm choosing to tune into joy because it feels so good.
Joy has no opposite nor is it subject to mood swings or the craziness of the world.
Joy has a twin, which is love.
There are people who describe experiencing true joy or love in the midst of terrible suffering. People like Victor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist imprisoned in concentration camps during WWII and a holocaust survivor. He writes in Man's Search for Meaning:
“For the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth - that Love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love.”
Joy is enough.
We can experience a fall out from pleasure or satisfaction because they are temporary. But this never happens with joy. It's constant and completely fulfilling.
Turns out that true happiness is JOY.
The good news is, we can still appreciate and embrace pleasure and satisfaction, and joy. We can have it all!
But if we don’t work on connecting to joy, no matter how much pleasure or satisfaction we have, we’ll never feel happy. And if we fixate on pleasure or satisfaction, it can turn on us- making us into workaholics, addicts or create other excessive behaviors. Why? Because both pleasure and satisfaction are temporary.
If we tune into JOY it will enable us to have even more healthy pleasure and worldly satisfaction.