Three Types of Happiness

In today’s world, it’s easy to think that happiness is all about fun - Ferris Wheel rides, trips away and delicious fast food. But I discovered there are other types of happiness that last much longer than a roller coaster ride.

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A couple of weeks ago I went to a conference in Sydney.  It wasn’t your standard hotel variety, with endless lectures, windowless rooms and nasty coffee.  This was a conference about happiness.  At Luna Park.  And the Dalai Lama dropped by.

In today’s world of instant gratification, it’s easy to think that’s what happiness is all about – Ferris Wheel rides, fun trips away and delicious fast food.  But in between hot dogs, I discovered there are two other types of happiness that last much longer than a roller coaster ride (and have much nicer after-effects).

Here’s the full smorgasbord, according to the father of positive psychology, Martin Seligman:

Pleasure:          Parties, great food, funny movies, Sunday sleep-ins.

Engagement:    Finding joy in being a parent, your work and your leisure activities.

Meaning:          Knowing your strengths well and using them to support something greater than you.

All of these options are good for you (as long as you don’t go crazy with the parties and sleep-ins). It’s great to try a bit of each type of happiness every day.  Some types last longer and go deeper than others though, so they’re much more satisfying. 

For example, I once met an Aussie mechanic who was fixing bikes for villagers in Sri Lanka.  These people needed a bike to get to work but couldn’t pay for expensive parts.  The mechanic found clever ways to use everyday items and get their bikes going again.  The villagers got to work and had money to feed their kids.  And the mechanic knew happiness that lasted much longer than my Ferris Wheel ride.

We don’t all need to zip off to the other side of the world to find meaningful happiness though.  You can use your strengths every day to change lives.  Teach a child compassion, donate to a charity, help out at the local scouts club, support events in your community, make birthing kits for women in Africa.  Or just give your smile and hugs to someone who really needs them.

You’ll have that amazing feeling of being at your best.  And others benefit from what you give.  It’s hard to not be happy about that.