Revealed: What is happiness? Plus, the simple trick that will bring more of it into your life

Happiness. It’s a word we know so well but, somehow, the quest to define it spans centuries and has preoccupied many of humanity’s greatest thinkers. Search for “happiness” in Google, and it’s hard not to get lost in the sea of results. You’ll find millions of definitions, exercises and input from the world’s top scientists, philosophers, and even economists. And yet, much of it appears contradictory. Many believe happiness is bound to material success, and yet there are people in the world’s least affluent countries that report higher levels of satisfaction with their lives. The digital age has made our day-to-day easier with everything, from dinner to movies, accessible at the tap of a button or the swipe of a screen, and yet we’re constantly being told to unplug in our quest to find more joy.


Happiness, for many, is a confusing and elusive emotion, one that we experience fleetingly every now and then but can’t seem to grasp and keep hold of. It’s the one emotion that many of us are on a quest to find and sustain through milestones like bagging that dream job, finding your soul mate or starting a family. But, can we let you in on a secret? Happiness is actually the simplest emotion of all and the secret to being happy every day is as easy as pressing “re-set” on your mindset?


Happiness is your default state.

Mo Gawdat, Rituals happiness ambassador.


Happiness is our first emotion. Think of it: one of the earliest developmental milestones we have as babies is smiling. One of the first ways we express ourselves when we’re not signalling that we’re in need of sleep, food, or a cuddle, is through the coos of joy and laughter. If a child’s basic needs are accounted for, if they are fed and clothed and loved, they are happy. It is only as we grow and begin to absorb and internalise rules and expectations from the world around us that we discover unhappiness beyond those basic needs. But if we learn to look past these accumulated illusions, we’ll be able to re-set to our default state of happiness. 



With all that in mind, it is not to say that unhappiness doesn’t have its role to play. Think of happiness as you would your wellbeing: it’s something that you have to work on and exercise every day. Unhappiness is the same as pain or illness: it’s a signal that things are not going the way they should be. Just as hunger tells you to eat and a strained back tells you to devote more attention to your posture, unhappiness signals that you need to find out what’s bothering you and work through it, which, in turn, will help to strengthen your happiness muscle.  



So, how do you find out what makes your heart sing? We all experience happiness in our lives – those times when everything aligns, where you feel calm and in the moment. If you look closely at those instances, though, you’ll notice that there’s a key component they all share. They are all moments when you let go of all the expectations you’ve been trained to have and you simply just ‘be’. When you learn to tap into this feeling, you’re taking the first step on the road to a happy, more joy-filled life. 


Want to discover what truly makes you happy? We have a simple task for you —write a happiness list. Carry a piece of paper with you for a day and jot down anything that makes you smile. These moments can be large or small — a perfect cup of coffee, nailing that presentation you’ve been working on, feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin. At the end of the day, look over what you’ve listed, and star the ones that matter most to you. Not only will the act of consciously taking notes, writing down and then re-reading the list make you feel happy, but being aware of what brings you joy will help set you on a path to a happier life.  


Click here for the Happiness Challenge.


Interested in learning more about happiness? Try the Rituals Happiness Challenge, with Mo Gawdat, former Chief Business Officer at Google and author of Solve for Happy. It’s a 14-day interactive journey that will transform your life and help you find true, long-lasting happiness.