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U3A Writing: Thoughts On Happiness

Betty Kay suggests that it is best to just accept happiness when it is there, and to learn to live without it when it is not.

Just for interest, when I decided to write my thoughts and feelings about happiness, I decided to look up alternatives for this word in my Thesaurus. There were 23 of them including cheerfulness, merriness, gaiety, good spirits, light-heartedness, joy, joviality, blitheness, enjoyment, gladness, delight, exuberance, elation, ecstasy, bliss, euphoria and transport.

Having satisfied my curiosity, I considered each of these words in turn and came to the conclusion that not one of them deserved to be equated with the word happiness as I conceive the meaning to be.

Happiness is an extremely elusive concept which may mean different things to different people. I feel that a state of true happiness is difficult to achieve and does not really have anything to do with enjoyment, joviality or delight or any others of the 23, although these elements might go some way towards developing a sense of happiness.

The dictionary definition seems to be more to the point. This defines happiness as feeling, indicating or causing contentment. This I can go along with, but how does one achieve contentment in a world that is always causing one to feel discontent?

I can enjoy watching a good film and reading a good book, feel jovial having a laugh at something that tickles my fancy, experience delight in the appreciation of art, music, flowers, etc, but true happiness, it seems to me is something different, to be experienced only in very rare moments; to be treasured but not really essential to leading a satisfactory life and certainly not to be achieved by continually striving after. To my way of thinking happiness is a state of mind associated with a knowledge that all is well with one's world.

My happiest times have all been associated with family life and friendship, but most especially with children, my own children and grandchildren and those of other people. Joy at their world, delight in watching them grow up, pleasure in being with them, but the real happiness has come from the knowledge of them just being there. This seems to me the best definition of what I consider to be happiness. I have possibly experienced at some time or another brief spells of what to me are just alternatives to happiness, many of them too personal and private to write about.

But there has been the joy of achievement, gladness because of someone else's achievement, bliss on gazing at a beautiful sunset, enjoyment of being with friends and sharing interests and so on. It is possible to do all these things even if one is not at that time particularly happy, or what I am trying to define as happiness.

Perhaps it is best not to think about it, but just to accept it when it is there and learn to live without it when it is not. I have a feeling that is what most of us do anyway.

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