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Defining Happiness Up

boy-1437926What if happiness isn’t about attaining or possessing what you desire?

Happiness according to the dictionary is:

1. the quality or state of being happy.
2. good fortune; pleasure; contentment; joy.

Apparently, happiness was invented in the 1500s. Before that, people were just kind of okay.

Word Origin of happiness
1520-1530 happy + -ness

According to the experts:

Happiness results from the possession or attainment of what one considers good: the happiness of visiting one’s family.

Perhaps the people live with their guru on a pristine mountaintop, because for many people reading this, the example chosen above might seem farcical. But today’s post isn’t about family issues. It’s about defining happiness.
Now, assuming the accuracy of the first part of the above entry, that of Happiness results from the possession or attainment of what one considers good what is needed is a definition of good, of which here the implication is that it is a individual, personal definition, and which in actuality is more about desirability than goodness.

But what if happiness isn’t about attaining or possessing what you desire? What if happiness is about desiring what you already possess?

Spiritual Task

According to Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, happiness is actually a spiritual imperative, a task, if you will, one which each person must work on, or lose out. Instead of working on that which, once we attain it, (relationship, children, money, vacation, job…), we believe will induce happiness in us, why not remove the middleman?

Tap into happiness wherever you find yourself holding and whenever you have a minute to spare. Ask:

What do I already have that helps me feel happy?

Maybe it is your knowledge of languages, your musical talent, your ability to pray, the view from your window.

Of course you can and even should try to achieve and attain, with the understanding that happiness can be found now, it’s not something to hope for, later.

No, it’s not easy. In fact, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov says:

To find joy is the hardest thing of all. It is harder than all other spiritual tasks…

But he also says:

Put all your energy into being happy. 

Also, keep in mind: happiness can simply be attained by a knowledge of and acceptance of your life’s highest purpose.

Read Joy-Your Spiritual Task at

Reference: happiness. Unabridged. Random House, Inc. (accessed: December 22, 2015).

Defining Happiness Up

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC is the author of Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On Without Wasting Time or Money and is licensed in addiction and psychotherapy with over 25 years experience as well as a consultant to organizations and companies in the fields of mental health and addiction. He is the executive director of an outpatient behavioral health program. Learn more about Richard here.

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APA Reference
& C.R. Zwolinski, R. (2015). Defining Happiness Up. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 5, 2020, from


Last updated: 22 Dec 2015
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