The Happiness Theory

“I define happiness for myself. I make my own happiness today and experience joy in living in my own unique way.” –Rokelle Lerner

So what role does happiness play in living a connected life?

As I mentioned before, the overall goal in my own life is to have “joy,” but not in opposition to happiness. My argument is that we need both. It’s just that when you have joy, if all that you hold sacred is ripped from you, you can find a reason to keep on living.

I don’t deny happiness or happy moments. I need them to stay alive. The idea of happiness is an essential component of living a healthy, connected life. But what in the world does it mean to be happy? Researchers have tried to define it, but I’m not sure if there is a consensus or a “Happiness theory” that has been identified. Here are some thoughts from a book I began reading some time ago called The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want by Sonja Lyubomirsky:

“I use the term happiness to refer to the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being,combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile. However, most of us don’t need a definition of happiness because we instinctively know whether we are happy or not. Academic researchers prefer the term subjective well-being (or simply well-being) because it sounds more scientific and does not carry the weight of centuries of historical, literary, and philosophical subtexts. I use the terms happiness and well-being interchangeably.”

In my own life, I know what happiness is not. It’s not being in an abusive relationship (whether it’s a love or work relationship); it’s not trying to make someone love me (whether it’s friends or lovers); it’s not spending money I don’t have on things to impress people I don’t care about; and it’s not being in constant turmoil with myself, my mom, or my family.

All of that seems a bit overwhelming. I think of happiness now as a moment to moment delight in whatever is happening in my life at a particular point in time.

“To paraphrase the late U.S.Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, happiness is like obscenity: We can’t define it, but we know it when we see it” (Lyubomirsky, 2007).


I always think how much of a blessing it must be to do something you love and be able to make money doing it. Like writers and musicians who are doing their thing, making money and loving what they do. There must be an amazing feeling to being able to support yourself and your family and do what you love in a career.

The other day, I got a chance to do just that: do something I love and get paid for it. I played my flute at an expo event to promote healthy living. The client wanted an extra “ambiance” to enhance people’s experience at the event, and thought hiring a couple of musicians would be a good idea. I was lucky enough to be hired as one of the two musicians who played at the event. The event and my performance were a success! I met so many lovely people, got great feedback from the client, the music was perfect, etc. This day, that moment, those people, the music, the performance…made me happy. And getting paid for it all, made me even happier.🙂

These happy moments are essential to enjoying our lives and living in the moment. These happy moments allow us to slow down, ruminate, and be present for what is going on in our lives.

But what would have happened if there was no happiness in the day? What if the people came up to me and said that my flute playing sucked? What if my flute broke and I tried to play and nothing came out? What if they decided not to pay me? Now of course these are extreme cases, but my point is that when the situation turns out unfavorable, I can usually find gratitude, or I can even search for a higher purpose or reason, but I cannot always find happiness. And in those times, I reach for joy.

So there is no happiness vs. joy. It’s just happiness AND joy. If you can visualize a big circle with a bunch of dots inside. The big circle is the concept of joy. The little dots are the moments of happiness. We need them both.

But it is the moments of happiness that help us to slow down and enjoy what is happening in us and through us, right here, right now.

“Our source of happiness and well-being is not inside others; it’s inside us. Learn to center ourselves in ourselves.” -Melody Beattie


  • Beattie, Melody (2009-06-10). Codependent No More (p. 107). BookMobile. Kindle Edition.
  • Lerner, Rokelle (1996-11-01). Daily Affirmations for Adult Children of Alcoholics: For Adult Children of Alcoholics (Kindle Location 1042). Health Communications. Kindle Edition.
  • Lyubomirsky, Sonja (2007-12-27). The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want . Penguin Group. Kindle Edition.

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