As I was in the checkout line at the grocery store, a magazine cover caught my eye.  Sorry to disappoint you if you’re hoping for juicy entertainment, it had nothing to do with the Kardashians, royal babies or Jennifer Aniston.  I was in Whole Foods and in fact the magazine was Psychology Today with a feature story called, "What Happy People Do Differently."  There was a little teaser following the title, "#1 They Seek Risk, Not Reward."

On that day I figured I qualified as happy, after all I was risking a nearly two hour long car ride with my car-loathing toddler to visit my Mom, so that seemed risk enough to qualify by that standard.  Often I consider myself happy.  There was a day recently that just being with my own little children, and  peacefully playing with them at home on the kitchen floor gave me a feeling of such joy and contentment that I almost had to laugh at how little it took to inspire such feelings.  Yet one must wonder, considering how often I'm in that scenario, why am I not bursting at the seams with pure elation?

I was too curious to pass the article up despite wondering if the entire magazine was worth the newsstand price, but we'll take that as more evidence of my happiness since I risked it.  To tell the truth, the entire article didn't make such a huge impression on me, but one small section of a page remained in my memory because it got me thinking.  It stated, "People who place a premium on being on being happy report being more lonely... craving happiness is a slippery slope."

That information got me wondering if I might place a premium on happiness and I began to mull over how I would define what it is I am looking for in life.  Am I just chasing that feeling of happiness- that rush of endorphins- or is it more? One can not expect to be happy all the time, but it does seem that a person has to come to the conclusion on her own that sadness is temporary and perspective matters. Do happy people take a different approach to life when times are tough? And if it is not just happiness I am after, what is it?

Do I need to feel "up" all the time? No, after honest reflection I can say that is not what I am seeking.  I do not mean to say that I want to feel sadness, but I have finally learned that by staying positive more often, when I do feel sad, I am better able to tell myself it is only temporary.  Perhaps something I might not have sought out in the past while feeling sad, like a good laugh with a friend or a run, is something I would now seek out to boost my spirits.  Perspective has become important to me, as what I tell myself influences how I feel.  If I repeatedly tell myself that things are awful, then am I influencing my own belief? I think so.  What if instead I tell myself that this too, shall pass?

The authors, who state that they are researchers, conclude that the "good life" includes not only happiness, but sadness, purpose, playfulness, mental flexibility, autonomy, mastery, and belonging.  I suppose this could be argued with, yet I think there is something to it.  I cannot argue against wanting the preceding things in any part of my life.  Perhaps then, saying I am looking for happiness is not enough.  I am looking to feel challenged in a way that inspires growth, I am looking for gratitude, contentment, abundance, and love.  I am not depending on feeling these things from others, but I want to be able to give love, feel abundance, show gratitude and push myself to grow so that I feel content.  Perhaps then, when one does not feel happiness, the ability to work on something that matters to them, or to feel like they still fit in somewhere, or to be flexible with perspective, to understand their own value or purpose, or to remain playful and optimistic- really does decide whether she can see the silver lining and lead a life that one might describe as happy or truly fulfilling.

What do you think? As always, I love your comments on the blog or at my Facebook Page! Don’t forget to “like” A Balanced Life for updates.

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    Jennifer Loebel