A friend recently distinguished between happiness in the moment and, her words, “true happiness.” I asked her the difference. She said that true happiness endured, whereas the other kind was fleeting.
I asked if she could give an example of true happiness. She thought and realized she couldn’t, because any happiness, however deep, she felt, would eventually give way to other emotions.
Friends, food, and wine bring happiness
I used to distinguish between levels of happiness. I also used to point out that no matter your emotions before, if you get together with friends you like to eat food and drink wine you like, it may take time, but you’ll eventually feel happy.
Maybe for you the happiness comes from other activities, but with the right choice of environments, beliefs, and behaviors, anyone can create happiness. It may not last, but it can happen.
Happy is happy
A great insight for me is that the happiness I get from friends and a delicious meal is the same happy as any other. It may pass, but so does other happiness.
Another great insight was a strategy that seems too simple to work, but it’s worked for decades for me. That strategy is to increase my happiness by extending those conditions. I make the dinners longer, spend more time with friends, and so on. I find more activities that make me happy, then extend them. I do the same with other emotions I like—satisfaction, humor, excited, engaged, and so on.
I don’t have to answer the meaning of life or read tons of philosophy. Instead of trying to achieve some great philosophical or psychological feat, I just create more fun times and activities. I know how to do those. I still learn from others and think deeply, but out of curiosity and interest, not necessity or blind hope.
These two insights lead to a life strategy that has served me well: make moments of happiness and other emotions I like last a little longer each time and make more of them. Life doesn’t seem like it should be that easy, but at least regarding happiness, it is.
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