In honor of Happiness Happens Month, we decided to leave the more official definitions in the dust and find out what happiness really means—to real people living real lives. We already know what the research says, but how does that play out in daily life? What is happiness from a personal perspective? So we went to our readers, the Panda Planner community, and even staff in search of wisdom. And you didn’t let us down. Below is a list of your top insights in response to this question: What is happiness to you?
What is Happiness Really?
For us, it’s so many thoughtful and inspiring responses to this question. So what is happiness to you? Well, it’s pretty much identical to what it means to researchers. (You didn’t think we could leave research out of this entirely, did you?) Interestingly enough, many of the responses are supported by science—things like spending time with loved ones, being out in nature, and accepting where you are right now. Consider us proud and impressed.
We divided the responses into categories because certain themes kept emerging. Read on to get a big dose of wisdom, and share your answer to the question in the comments.
Discovering joy in the ordinary
“Happiness for me fluctuates daily. Some days it’s a cup of coffee in the morning in the garden. Or snuggles from my dog. A great hike with my hubby through the woods. Enjoying watching my kids become amazing adults. Any time spent by the water. Wandering through an art museum. Making my own art. My hands in the soil, helping things grow.”
“Happiness is the little moments—it’s sitting and being present with my family, listening to their silly stories, laughing until I am crying. It’s hugging my kids and husband and being present in the hug. I honestly think happiness is being present and finding the joy in every moment. And I need it like I need the air to breathe.”
“Happiness is dancing in my house with my husband and daughter.”
“Happiness to me is pancakes with my husband on Saturday morning. Our schedules are so hectic it’s the only chance we get.”
Spending time with the people that matter most
“Happiness means being content at the end of each day and waking up the next to go after your goals. It’s crashing ocean waves, big breakfasts, ice cream with extra peanut butter sauce. It’s helping family and friends find their happiness, having plenty to do and plenty of people to share it with.”
“Happiness is having car conversations with my kids. I love when they aren’t plugged into devices, pay attention to the sights around them, and ask questions. This morning we talked about my job history, bail bonds, bounty hunters, and police dogs and stopped to take a picture of an amazing moth we saw at the drive-thru. You can’t force moments like that!”
—Jennifer St. Denis
“Happiness is being around the people I love and helping them be the best version of themselves. When I’m confronted with something that is troubling someone, I help them get through it, whether that’s giving meaningful advice or a pat on the back. True happiness for me is being able to support those around me in big and small ways—looking for nothing but seeing them smile!”
“To me, happiness is synonymous with connection. I feel most happy, most content, and most grateful when I’m experiencing moments where I feel connected to myself, connected to others, connected to the world, and connected to something greater.”
—Bailey Reagan, Customer Experience Manager, Panda Planner
“Happiness means my toddler running to me, yelling ‘Mama!’ at the top of her lungs and jumping into my arms to give me the biggest hug ever. She may only be two, but she brings joy everywhere she goes—especially when she doles out amazing hugs.”
“Happiness is the dribble of nectarine down my neck on a hot summer day. It’s unexpected quality time with loved ones. Happiness is sharing your gifts with others, passing on a smile, freedom from suffering. It’s pure distracted presence in the moment!”
“Happiness to me is feeling content. I feel the most content when I’m with my family and friends, laughing over good food and a glass of wine. It’s those moments in life when I wish I could make time stop, so we could stay in them forever.”
—Jill Donelly, Director of Social Media Marketing, Panda Planner
Accepting the ups and downs
“Happiness for me means enjoying the ups and downs in life. Even the downs have a silver lining, as long as you are willing to see it. On days that are harder than others, I remind myself that every day above ground is a good one.”
“Happiness is greeting each day with confidence and excitement, feeling certain and sure in my choices. Not a lot can top that surge of euphoria when I accept that as it is, with all its flaws, life is wonderful!”
“To me, happiness isn’t about smiling all the time or never feeling sad, but instead, happiness is being able to appreciate the ups as well as the downs in your life. Allowing yourself to be present with and truly feel everything that life presents without desperately trying to hold onto or push away certain thoughts, feelings, and experiences.”
—Michael Leip, Creator and Founder of Panda Planner
“Happiness is to not be weighed down by guilt or self-doubt, to accept myself as I am, to appreciate what I have in my life—my health, a career that pays for my physical needs, my dog—and most importantly, to have friends and loved ones who are there for me.”
“Happiness doesn’t have to be big bright and shiny. Sometimes happiness may be a day of just okay. Your family is healthy, everyone is gainfully employed, and there are no immediate crises. As I grow older, I appreciate the simple things more than I once did resulting in more consistent happy!”
Being in nature
“Happiness for me is waking up in a tent near water with the smell of pine and campfire. Sometimes my more attainable happiness is gathering with people in my city at a class or workshop. Escaping my life as CEO of a start-up to head to the woods takes organization. I’m not always able to balance it all but I feel confident that I’ll find my way back to the woods…or just a local glass-blowing class.”
“Happiness is grabbing a cup of joe in the morning, going out to my porch, and enjoying the nature in my backyard, including any creatures who are up for a visit.”
“Happiness to me is being in nature, walking through a field with the wind around me, and remembering a hot summer when my daughters loved to hide in the long grass with our dog. That memory makes me smile every single time.”
“Happiness to me is going home from work, hitting my half-mile driveway, and seeing my farm! It brings me peace and happiness. Then going and visiting with my husband and grandson, who has been spending the summer with us.”
“Happiness means fulfillment. This can look like almost anything, and it can change unexpectedly. Sometimes to feel happy (and fulfilled) it’s enough to finish a book or eat a good meal. Other times, it’s not that quick. It can take months of work to get to that feeling of happiness. For me, happiness means always having or doing at least a few things that give you that feeling of fulfillment. If I have more positives than negatives in terms of feeling fulfilled, I consider myself happy.”
“Happiness is being happy about where my life is going!”
“Happiness to me is waking up knowing I have a new day to do something great and to make the world a better place.”
—Tavia L. Lawson
Choosing your perspective
“Happiness to me is a vibration in my body; it’s the feeling of being electric, peaceful and in the flow all at once. My favorite thing about happiness is that it’s a feeling. I have access to it whenever I want by thinking a thought that provides me with the feeling. Life is 50 percent positive and 50 percent negative, and that’s okay because without the contrast life would be medium all the time. And who wants medium?”
—Dorothy Johnson, Operations Assistant & Production Manager, Panda Planner
“To me, happiness is humor, especially when things are going completely sideways. In fact, I find humor even more valuable when it’s at my own expense. Because let’s be real, life is straight-up ridiculous, often painful, and punctuated with ellipses. It’s your call whether you make your story a comedy or a tragedy; all of ours could go either way. As for me, I’m choosing laughter the same way I’m choosing happiness—because I can.”
—Chelsey Taylor, Content Manager, Panda Planner
What is happiness to you?
Now think about your answer. What is happiness in your life? Is it little, everyday moments? Or is it nurturing your connections with others—or with nature? Maybe it’s accepting life right where you are, even if it’s not quite where you want to be. Jot down the first thing that comes to your mind, and make it a point to prioritize your happiness, whatever that means to you.
Your turn: What is happiness to you and how do you make more of it? Tell us in the comments.
What is happiness to researchers? Get the definition and an easy way to boost your happy today.
Quotes have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Author: Chelsey Taylor
Chelsey likes words, especially adjectives, and has been perfecting her perfectionism since infancy. She’s an endorphin-gatherer, top-knot connoisseur, and content manager at Panda Planner.