Are There Different Types of Happiness?

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The human pursuit of happiness is one of the most common human searches, but it tends to be an elusive goal as well. Luckily for us, the experience of "happiness" can actually take many forms and result from a variety of behaviors and life circumstances. Research can now point us to concrete ways that we can find or develop these various forms of happiness in our lives.

Joy

The feeling of joy comes from losing yourself in the present moment and appreciating what you have. It's fleeting in that it can sneak up on you and sometimes can disappear if you try to analyze it too much. It can also be found in many things if you have the right attitude and perspective, so it's a relatively accessible form of happiness to seek.

The easiest way to find joy is to engage in activities you know usually bring you joy. This can be anything from yoga to amusement parks to your favorite music. It's also important to try some new things to find novel avenues of joy.

Excitement

Though it can last longer than joy, this emotion is still somewhat fleeting—it dissipates rather quickly and can turn into ennui. However, it can be a motivating factor. Excitement about a new job, for example, can motivate you to work harder, and excitement about a new relationship can motivate you to put more effort into working through difficulties.

Excitement can also help you to get through jitters. If you tell yourself you are excited rather than anxious or nervous, studies have found, you can channel that potentially uncomfortable energy into more constructive activity.

Excitement can also extend the positive feelings you get from an activity. If you focus on your excited feelings of anticipation, the fun of a vacation can extend into the days and weeks before you even leave. Excitement isn't too difficult to come by, either, so this is an easy one to pursue. Take on new challenges. Keep a bucket list. Let yourself revel in anticipation when you have something big coming up.

Gratitude

Gratitude can disappear if you don't actively focus on it, but it's also an important form of happiness. Those who feel gratitude on a regular basis tend to be happier and healthier than those who are less prone to these feelings, according to research.

Further, gratitude is very simple to cultivate. You can use a gratitude journal, loving-kindness meditation, or even simply tell people in your life that you appreciate them, and do it often. Cultivating these feelings of gratitude has been shown to ward off feelings of depression, among other things. It may be less obvious, but this type of happiness can be brought to mind again and again.

Pride

While smug or competitive pride can be a negative thing, feelings of pride in your accomplishments can be a form of gratitude turned inward and are a great form of happiness to indulge in. You can take pride in your work and your family, your home and your self, and in anything you put effort, care, and love into.

You can cultivate a healthy sense of pride by including personal accomplishments in your gratitude journal or keeping a list of "wins" at the end of each day. This isn't the same as bragging or being "full of yourself"—you're not saying that you're better than others because of your accomplishments, but that you're a better form of yourself, and you're appreciating this fact.

Optimism

Studies also connect optimism with greater outcomes in life. Optimists tend to focus on possibilities and have a combination of gratitude and pride. They're grateful for all of the possibilities life presents, proud of their abilities to harness these resources, and have a strong belief in themselves and their ability to make their attempts at whatever goals they pursue a success.

Optimists, when faced with disappointment, tend to minimize it, pinpoint how they can do better next time, and see mitigating factors that led to their negative outcomes. When they succeed, they give themselves credit and take it as a sign of better things to come. Optimism tends to be an overall way of being, so it's less fleeting than other forms of happiness.

5 Steps to Being More of an Optimist

Contentment

Contentment means being happy with what you have. Those who are content are less disappointed by life's drawbacks and feel lucky to have what they have in their lives already.

People strive to feel this form of happiness, and it can come with a focus of gratitude on what you have as well as a feeling that you have climbed high and deserve to enjoy the rewards that come with the effort. Reveling in your accomplishments and in everything you have can bring contentment, so focusing on what you have is a great way to stay content.

Love

Love and happiness are sometimes said to be interchangeable, that love is an infinite source of happiness, and happiness itself is a form of love. However you look at it, both are vital to have in your life.

True love is fabled to be extremely difficult to come by, but in actuality, love can be found all around you. Family, friends, romantic partners, and even pets can all be sources of love, and focusing on all of these relationships can greatly enrich your life. This is a form of happiness that can come in endless supply.

Even though stressful relationships can sap us of happiness, healthy and supportive relationships can bring great and lasting happiness. Focusing on relationship skills, spending time with loved ones, and in other ways cultivating these relationships can help you to keep this form of happiness in your life.

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