Random header image... Refresh for more!

Happiness as a Place

I’ve obviously been giving a lot of thought to happiness this year through SuperBetter.  I don’t know why I connected with that book whereas all the other “happiness”-themed books rolled off my skin like my internal vinegar repelled those books’ oil.  Maybe it’s because SuperBetter doesn’t directly aim you toward happiness, though admits that happiness tends to be where people end up.  More on that over the next few weeks as I finish up unpacking my thoughts on the book and how I set up my own personal challenge.

Despite all of that, I clicked on Atlas Obscura’s recent post about a man who drew a map for 18th century foundering youth who couldn’t figure out the way to happiness.  I mean, if there was a direct route, I wanted to know about it.  Enough with this traipsing willy-nilly through the woods trying to find the other side.

Spoiler alert: It’s just freakin’ hard work and morality.  That’s the secret sauce: passion, reason, and religion.

But… I guess the idea interested me because, so often, people DO speak about happiness as if it is a tangible object or physical space that people can get to akin to hopping a plane to London.  (Unless you live in London, and then change that to hopping a plane to New York.)  You can find happiness in the physical space of tidy drawers.  Or happiness in a well-padded bank account.  Or happiness in a perfect vacation.

There are places that make me happy, even when unhappy things happen there.  And there are places that don’t make me happy, even when happy things happen there.

If you were to stumble upon a map, one that led you on a long journey from place to place but promised happiness in the end, would you take it?  And why would be believe that map anyway when you know that life itself is a long journey from place to place and happiness can never be promised?


1 Em { 12.11.16 at 9:45 am }

Stumbling on a map would be similar to stumbling on a book, I think. So it turns out my answer is no, as I haven’t done the happiness books that abound in the last few years. (Or a blog.)

I think happiness isn’t an aim for me right now, odd as it sounds for an American to say that. That said, that map wouldn’t help me anyway, as most of the times I’m happiest include a bit of the mystic and the inexplicable and that doesn’t seem to be in the cartographers realm.

2 Beth { 12.11.16 at 10:51 am }

I don’t believe happiness is a place. I think I am happier when I am certain places (my home, for example) than when I am other places (my in laws’ home) but basically I think it’s internal. My husband and I had a similar discussion when house hunting together and unable to find what we both wanted. We realized that we can be happy anywhere because we would be together, with our daughter, and suddenly it made the house itself less important.

3 Raven { 12.11.16 at 10:51 am }

No I wouldn’t because I don’t believe happiness works like that. Firstly, it’s an emotion that comes and goes much like sadness or joy or anger. If you try hard enough, you can find a reason to be sad or angry in almost anything (we all know someone like that) and I believe it works the same for happiness. Secondly, happiness and the path to it is different for everyone – so someone else’s map would never work for me. I find happiness in positivity, love and animals. I know lots of people who don’t like animals much so I doubt they would bring them happiness. Thirdly, the ability to be happy resides solely within myself…while I don’t always think it’s a choice, it is certainly something my mind has to be. You can’t tell me I’m happy when I’m feeling sad and have it be true.

So, having said all that, I think someone elses map may lead them to happiness, but not likely me! I prefer my own map and the realisation that life is a journey of ups and downs and I won’t always be happy but sometimes that’s necessary to truly appreciate happy when I am!

4 knottedfingers { 12.11.16 at 1:10 pm }

I wouldn’t. I don’t think happiness works like that. Happiness is different for everyone. This past Sukkot I got in a discussion with a Rabbi about during Sukkot we should be happy and it brought up much discussion of what is happiness.

People think happiness you have to feel giddy with excitement and you have to feel on top of the world. Happiness can come from small things and be a gentle feeling of contentment the Rabbi told me. How do you feel when you get home from a long day and put on your fuzzy pants and settle down with a cup of cocoa and a book. Stretching out with your new pillow. Enjoying the small things that bring you comfort. These are things that give you joy and give you happiness.

My happiness is not what someone else’s is. But finding the map would bring me happiness because I adore things like that. Old books, photos, maps, documents, all of it.

5 Jess { 12.11.16 at 7:07 pm }

Oh, I’m so sad my comment disappeared! I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness, and whether it’s a state or a destination. I agree with you, you can find happiness in all kinds of experiences and things (reading a good book, new flannel sheets, a kiss) but I think it’s not something you can necessarily achieve, as if there is a finite happiness, an ultimate destination or saturation. I think the moments where you’re not happy help you to see what does make you happy, provides the balance to help give you perspective on the big picture. I don’t think I’d accept the map, partly because I’m suspicious and would think it might be a trick, and partly because I don’t want to look for a finite happiness. I want to experience it as I go, find it in unusual places, and have it ebb and flow. (No clue if this matches my original comment mostly or if the past few hours have changed my thinking… ha ha). Great food for thought!

6 Mali { 12.11.16 at 9:15 pm }

I read somewhere recently that the quest for happiness actually makes us unhappy. Rather than focusing on other things, which is when we find happiness. I actually believe that. The passion part and the reason part. Religion doesn’t do it for me. A place I still think of as one of my favourite “happy places” actually made me quite unhappy once, and then there are the places that are sometimes one, sometimes the other. Or perhaps a better way to look at them all is that they can be, or are, both.

I think you have a lot of wise answers here, but I’ve skimmed them, so once I’ve written my Microblog Mondays post, I’m going to come back and read them in their entirety.

7 Jill A. { 12.12.16 at 1:05 am }

I think you need to come up with a working definition of “happy” and “happiness.” It is one of those words that can mean so many different things. Give us some idea of what you are talking of when you say “happy.” Peace? Joy? Relaxation? Laughter? What does your happiness feel like?

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
The contents of this website are protected by applicable copyright laws. All rights are reserved by the author