New year, new me. Or at least, that’s what I tell myself, or have other people tell me. I might not directly use these words, but inevitably I will try to change or improve myself in one or more areas. I do this every year and still manage to not succeed even once. For the last couple of years, my ‘new year’s resolution’ was to be happier. Find more sources of happiness, create moments of joy, and thoroughly enjoy life. I figured that all else would then naturally follow; friendships, a good job, personal success, and so on.

Year three of the same new year’s resolution and I think I finally cracked the code. It took me a lot of trial and error but I’m confident that I found the key to happiness. If the key actually fits the keyhole is another conversation. A conversation we will probably have at the end of 2022. Nonetheless, I want to share with you my little theory on happiness. The answer is simple: happiness is found in the average. Let me break that down for you.

Highs and lows

Naturally, when in search of happiness, you think of the moments (or things) that spark joy. These are your sources of happiness. This can be material objects such as your car, it can be relationships like those with your friends or partner(s), or it can be memories. These objects, relationships, and memories create temporary ‘highs’ in your level of contentment. Kind of like mountain tops.

Then you have the lows in life. These are obstacles that block your sources of happiness. They can be the lack of the aforementioned ‘highs’, such as not having relationships, material possessions, or bad memories. But they can also be more intrinsic blockages such as insecurities or doubts. All of these create the ‘lows’ in your life. Just like the valleys down the mountain range.

A balance

To define happiness we instinctively look at our ‘highs’. Try it yourself. Ask yourself what makes you happy and you will probably name all of your ‘highs’. And this makes perfect sense, right? It does however become a problem once a certain peak in your life has passed, making the curve bend downward. This is when you enter a ‘low’. And despite our toughest efforts to remain in constant ‘highs’, life truly is about the ups and downs. And the ‘lows’ in your life are inevitable.

Let’s say traveling makes you truly happy, and you would define your happiness as being able to travel the world as much as you can. Right now, in the middle of a pandemic, that specific source of happiness is very far away. So if you want to be happy, this means that you have to reach for a ‘high’ that is very much out of your proximity.

The dotted line is where you set your happiness.

The trick here becomes to shift your perspective and understanding of what it means to be happy. If you equal your ‘highs’ to being happy, that means you will inevitably pass through many moments in your life of unhappiness. If you were instead to shift that perspective and define happiness to be just below those ‘highs’, that means you will be less far from being happy once you are in a ‘low’. Defining your happiness as the average of your ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ will therefore ease your way out of ‘lows’, and create shorter pathways to your ‘highs’.

A visualization of the happiness curve with ups and downs.
The dotted line is where you set your happiness.

Average is not boring

This works especially well when you are in a more negative state of mind, or a troubling period of your life. If you would have defined your happiness to be the peaks in your life, that would mean it takes big jumps to get there. If you instead define your happiness to be the average of your ‘lows’ and ‘highs’, that means you wouldn’t really have to go so far in order to find that happiness. And the sources of happiness could then come from much closer proximity, allowing you to move out of a ‘low’ effortlessly.

A common mistake is to think that applying this theory or ‘technique’ means that you are living a boring life. Nothing is further from the truth. The word average itself is loaded with a lot of negative meanings. In the context of happiness however, it means nothing more than to accept life for its ‘highs’ and ‘lows’, and understand that realistically you have to be happy in the average of the two. The ‘highs’ don’t last long enough for you to settle that only this would make you happy. In your lifespan, you will spend more time in the average, than you will in the ‘highs’.

Realistically, with a full-time job or studies, you will not be able to spend an endless amount of time traveling each year. If you were to define your happiness as traveling, that means you would have to settle for being unhappy most of your life. Instead of looking forward to the few moments of joy in each year, why not consider making your everyday life a source of happiness itself?

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