Happiness - what it is, how to get some more and knowing when to bonsai!


Universally, if you ask people what they most want in their life - among of the top answers will be “happiness.” So today I want to share some of what my happiness looks like and one way I get it.

Let’s start by thinking about these questions. 

Are you someone who wants to be happy?  Why do you want to be happy?

Is it because you feel most yourself when you’re happy? Or maybe it’s just because it feels really good being happy! I know I want to be happy and for me both of these aspects play a big part in my happiness.

I don’t have all the answers - but I do have a few… and I’d like to share some of these here.

When I was a University lecturer, one of my areas of research was Positive Psychology, where two types of happiness are often discussed - eudaimonic and hedonic. Hedonic focuses on external sources of stimulus (cars, houses, good-meals…) and eudaimonic comes from internal sources (having a life purpose, doing meaningful work, living authentically…). Both originate back to Greek philosophers so they’ve been around for a while! Hedonic happiness originated from Aristippus, who believed in maximizing pleasure and eudaimonic well-being from Aristotle, whose focus was on maximizing human potential.

My focus today is on eudaimonic happiness - that’s the inside job - aligned to well-being and living your best life as your best self.

Something I have found to be very beneficial and impacting on my eudaimonic well-being, is getting to know who I am and how that affects what I do. I’ve found a great way to do this is by identifying my character strengths and then using my top 5 strengths often every day.

For me work is a wonderful place to exercise my top 5 character strengths, and this alone is probably one of the most important reasons why I love my work.

If you want to identify your individual character strengths I recommend you take the VIA character strengths survey - available free through the Values in Action website, www.viainstitute.org Once you have identified your top 5 character strengths, sit with them for a while and become aware when you use them. Chances are you’ll be like me (and the many students I’ve worked with), and you’ll notice that if you use them often, this increases your feeling of eudaimonic happiness and well-being.

Curiosity is one of my top 5 character strengths.

Those of you who know me, know I’m insatiably curious and my curiosity can be intimidating for some people who feel like they’re getting the third degree… when actually I’m asking questions because I’m really interested and curious…

Knowing this about myself allows me to see that I have a choice when to engage as my most authentic self, or when to as I like to call it ‘bonsai’ (or edit) a more socially acceptable version. There are times when ‘bonsai-ing’ is called for - for example - times when it’s not appropriate or when it’s in my best interests not to be too curious - for whatever reasons. This might be fine for an hour, a day, a week or at a stretch a month but over time this would be hugely impacting upon my level of eudaimonic happiness as it is incongruous with my authentic self. For me being curious is a huge part of who I am and incredibly satisfying, so to shut it off is to shut off a big piece of me. The same goes for my other top 5 character strengths as well.

One of the most important things I believe about developing eudaimonic well-being (and happiness) is to see the connection between who you are and what you do. Starting with self-awareness is a great lens to look through and key to making changes. Growing knowledge from that awareness allows a choice to be made that can then be accepted which in turn leads to self-love - the cherry on top of the cake as far as I’m concerned - these aspects outline my 5-step process to authentic well-being and happiness... more on them at a later time. Right now it’s about being true to who you are, finding work that works for you and loving your life, all cues I find to eudaimonic happiness.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post and I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.

Thanks so much for reading and have a great day. Gina x