Everyone you meet always asks if you have a career, are married, or own a house, as if life was some kind of grocery list. But no one ever asks you if you are happy

Heath Ledger

We’ve gone down the whole happiness route before. But I saw this quote and I thought it was interesting, especially considering how Ledger’s life ended.

Let’s break this down a little.

When you first meet someone, what are the things that you want to know about them? How do you know if you want to be friends with someone? How do you know if it’s someone you want to avoid?

My daughter is in the process of figuring out who her roommates will be for next year. One person was easy, but now they are trying to find two others so that they can try to get one of the cool, Junior apartments. I’m betting they’re asked about majors, clubs and hometowns. They’ve probably talked about sleep habits and smoking. But I doubt they’re branched out into asking each other if they are happy.

Do we assume that those around us are happy?

A few months ago a neighbor of mine put a picture on Facebook on their grandchildren. I thought one of the kids looked, I don’t know, closed off? Arms crossed, not engaged with the siblings and cousins, far off look. I wondered if this kid was happy. It was odd for me, because I normally don’t think about whether or not people are happy. But there was something about this kid…the look…

Not long after the kid did suffer an episode that could be considered a mental breakdown.

While we all appear to be striving for happy, do we know what happy looks like? Do we know what unhappy looks like?

Are we more likely to realize that a stranger is unhappy as opposed to someone in our own family?

Do we really care if those around us are happy?

Do you ever ask someone if they are happy?

Or are you afraid to find out the answer is anything other than yes?

Of course, we could ask if happy is really the goal, or if content will suffice…

We could also ask if happy is conditional, a feeling that comes and goes as the day progresses…or is happy just a state of mind?

So…

For write my blog Thursday….pick a question and ponder…

Discuss…

99 thoughts on “Are You Happy?

  1. I never ask someone if they’re happy, but I think I’m going to start. I think I’ll replace all of the other questions with this one, because after all, wellbeing is what we all are striving for, whether we admit it or not.

    As for the kid in the photo, I don’t think most families are very in tune with one another. It’s like you can be living in the same house with someone and they never even bat an eye at your obvious unhappiness.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. You’ve hit on some excellent points. Isn’t our well being tantamount? Do we talk the talk, but not walk the walk when it comes to whether or not we are ok? And the family dynamic…we want them to be ok, so in our minds…they are…I don’t know how what we do to make it better though

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I think it will depend on who it is. To answer the other comment, I also think some of this begins with self-awareness. It wasn’t until I was open and honest with myself about how I felt about a lot of things that I could then notice others’ emotions (e.g., hubby, kids, friends). Like a lot of things, it all starts with you.

        Years ago, if someone would’ve asked me if I was happy, I’m not even sure I would’ve known how to answer, but now, I’m clear about it. I also think we have to start being more honest about how we feel in general. So, beyond “are you happy,” right? Like, how do you feel in this moment about x, y, and z? We have to make it okay to have these authentic conversations. Ultimately, who cares what you do to make money?

        Liked by 4 people

      2. It does come down to personal responsibility in a sense….take charge of your own life…I was supposed to have a zoom meeting with someone the day I went to the er. She emailed yesterday and asked how I was feeling, and I proceeded to give her the whole doctors can’t find anything, more specialists, physically ok but mentally draining…and the I thought…does she care about the details?

        Liked by 3 people

  2. Some people couldn’t care less if others are happy. For me, I don’t like to know when someone’s unhappy, but I’ll do whatever I can to console them if it seems that they aren’t. There’s simply too much lack of empathy in the world, and lack of empathy to me the root of all evil.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I think it’s hard to know if someone is happy because people are really good at masking when they aren’t. I also think most people only care if someone is happy if it directly affects their own personal happiness.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I think about that picture and winder if it’s really masked, or if we stop acvtually seeing those we are closed to. As an outsider I was pretty sure this kid was unhappy, but if I say something to the grandparent, they would think I’m nuts. Yet….

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This may sound extremely jaded, but I don’t think most people give a damn if others are happy or not. I recently was sidelined by a leg injury and everyone continued playing – no one even helped me off the court. Brutal. Things like that reinforce people’s innate selfishness, and let me say, it’s a wakeup call and a turnoff. I try to be sensitive to others feelings, or what is called emotional intelligence. I wish more people had it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Not jaded. Realistic. People do what is good for them, and really don’t think about others. It’s like my theory that there is no such thing as true altruism because there’s always the component of getting something out of doing…and I think it only gets worse as we keep saying how much we are doing for others.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Well yeah…when I hear two people just complaining about everything. Though Mc made an interesting observation…sometimes people are just trying to get through the day themselves…we really don’t know what’s going on with someone else at all

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I was talking to a work colleague today and she seemed a bit down. She had just recovered from her second dose of the Pfizer vaccine which had laid her partner and her low for a few days. She seemed so sad and I asked if she was okay. The simple truth was no she wasn’t. She hasn’t seen her daughter for 2 years and she had just missed her birthday. Her daughter lives in Switzerland with her husband and our government (Australia) has just been advised to keep international borders closed for another 2 years. She was so sad and angry, having the vaccine had been something she could do to get the family back together more quickly and she feels cheated.
    She works in a very pressured environment and feels estranged from most of her colleagues, so I think she was relieved that someone noticed her distress.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. No I am not happy in general.

    I am happy about some things though…but is it enough? Can you pick the little thing that makes you happy and try to zoom in on that instead of letting all the many other things that contribute to dissatisfaction and unhappiness rule your world?

    Meh.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. This is such a good topic. It hits close to home for me because I suffered from depression in perimenopause and we have depression in our family. I don’t want to go into detail because it’s someone else’s story.

    Happiness can be a day to day thing. Those who struggle with depression know this. And if someone is in depression they aren’t thinking about other people’s happiness. That might look selfish but they are trying to keep themselves alive. I think that’s a perspective that’s missing.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. You make me think…is the opposite of happiness depression? Or is it just being unhappy? And why do we expect people to never be unhappy? But you hit on an excellent point…sometimes people are doing the best they can to survive. It doesn’t mean they lack empathy…they just don’t have the spare emotional resources to deal with it

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes, to the point about doing the best they can to survive.
        Is the opposite of happiness depression? Good question. Maybe not. I don’t know why my mind went there. I was thinking of the child with the arm crossed in the Facebook picture and I think I felt like maybe that triggered something in me.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I’m a little haunted by the photo myself. It’s one of those moments that I saw something, and maybe I should have said something. But then you think they’ll think you’re an idiot….I’m not sure what the opposition of happy is, or depression…

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Do we (I) really care if those around us are happy? (Picking one of your questions to ruminate on)

    I ask people regularly how they are. It is a default conversation starter and general greeting for me. New people often don’t realize it is actually a sincere question as it is a “polite-ness” that is used by many who aren’t really interested in the true answer. Because of the trite nature of the greeting the answer is often “fine”. I am a smarta** at my very core. Because of this I have a pat response to being “fine-ed”. I just shoot back with “Fine, fine? or F.I.N.E-fine?”. Those familiar with Steven Tyler will chuckle (usually) and either assure me they are fine-fine or will open up about which letter they are experiencing at the moment. A little bit of explanation is necessary for people not familiar with the acronym, but it is a way to convey my sincere interest in the answer without coming off as creepy invasive into their private life. My kids know better than to “fine” me when they are not “fine”. They don’t have to talk to me about whatever it is that is going on, but they have to at least acknowledge when they are suffering from, what we call, an “alphabet day”.

    I spent a lot of years in silent misery wishing, hoping, needing someone to see and/or care that I was not ok. I was very good at making the “outside” look trouble free, while the “inside” was dying. It took a LOOONNNNGGGG time to learn how to open my mouth and just admit that I wasn’t fine…that I was swimming in an alphabet soup of “not fine”. It took even longer to consistently make the outside match the inside (even on those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days).

    So, yes. I do care about the happiness of those I come in contact with. But I also know, for me anyway, that “happiness” is a transient feeling. If I chase it, I lose it. Contentment is the goal I strive for. If I am content my mind is in a place where I can recognize and revel in the brief moments of true happiness that float through the day.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m also a contentment seeker as opposed to happy, because chasing happy isn’t always the best path for me. The first part of your comment made me think. A few weeks ago I went to the er which forced me to cancel plans with someone. She asked yesterday how I was feeling, and I went into the whole explanation about different doctors and what I’m doing, and what’s next, and a little about how I’m feeling mentally. Then I thought…did she really want to know all that! Or would fine have sufficed. When she asked the question, what was the goal behind it?

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Do others really care if we are happy? Happiness in their terms, of course. What makes us happy might not seem like a “reason to be happy” to them. I believe happiness is a choice; our decision to not let negative comments ruin our mood. (easy to say but difficult to follow at times, I know.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh that’s true. My parents are still mad that my sister divorced her first husband because they thought he was great, but didn’t understand my sister wasn’t happy

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I think it is important to focus on what we have more than on what we do not have. What we have is often what we have fought hard to have: our family, our loved ones, our job or career, our possessions. Yes, it can always be more but many envy what we have. Focus on what you have including your health. Be thankful if you have good health.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I think as a general rule, most people don’t really care one way or another if others are happy or not unless they are in their closely cared for group of people (family & close friends) and even then it isn’t a given. Because of that, I doubt most people even think to ask, even of those close to them. It’s sad, but it is also true. Happiness can be an immediate feeling or it can be a general, overall thing that encompasses more than a single moment. I tend to look at both. For me, I’m generally happy as I have a whole lot of reasons to be, but it is impossible to maintain that at 100%. I haven’t always been happy, but over time, the balance has shifted and there are way more happy times than not. The thing about happiness is that it is both something you can actively effect and something that just happens and you have no control over. I’ve learned over the years to try and seek out the happiness instead of just expecting it to happen, because the happiness that just happens is rare.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s funny, but some of the relentlessly positive people I know have really faltered of late. By never allowing yourself to feel unhappy, you can’t actually deal with everything thrown your way. That being said, dwelling on things doesn’t help either. But…do people really care? I’m just not sure

      Liked by 2 people

  12. I think there are different definitions of “happy”. An occasion can make someone happy and that happiness will last for a bit and then fade, but does that mean the person isn’t happy anymore? I used to work with a few different people over my years that I felt were unhappy people and their presence was toxic to me, it kind of radiated out and I needed to distance myself from them as best I could. They were negative people. I have had times in my life that I was very unhappy but they passed because I worked at it, I think the obsession with being happy all the time leads to unhappiness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Completely agree with your last thought. I have seen some relentlessly positive people really falter lately because they just can’t grasp that they can’t always put in a happy face and be happy

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Happiness is a peak emotion which can’t be maintained long term, whereas contentment is a smoother life experience overall. With contentment, there are bumps in the roads, but less wild peaks & troughs of emotion. As someone who lives with depression, I find it importance to prioritise stability of mood, and while I don’t seek to avoid the highs of joy, I don’t chase it, rather I simply make the most of it when it comes my way.

    In terms of asking people if they’re happy – as a life coach, that is something I do both to clients and to friends – and the response can be more (a lot more) than most people want to hear. Coaches & other talk therapists generally have a supervisor to provide them with support and/or a confidential outlet, whereas ordinary folk don’t, so they can end up carrying another person’s unhappiness around with them not knowing how to deal with it. I choose what I say, and to whom I say it. I also pay to see a counsellor whenever I feel the need, as I know what’s it’s like to be burdened with someone else’s troubles after they’ve unloaded and left them with me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a good point. Are any of us really capable of dealing with someone else’s pain? Can we actually help those in real pain, as opposed to just being an ear to listen? Sometimes you do just need someone to listen…but yeah….

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ll always listen, as I get how important being heard is for someone who is struggling, but I also understand those who avoid being burdened. The tricky bit is avoiding feeling the need to do something – to fix it – because for most, just being heard is all they want. Simply sitting with someone and their pain is such a great gift.

        Liked by 2 people

  14. How do you know if it’s someone you want to avoid? That’s easy, anyone claiming to be happy. Happiness is like the hiccups. You have no idea how you got’em, but being mortal, you soon come to realize…that, this too shall pass.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ha. That’s a great way to analyze it though….is saying you’re happy a case of he who doth protest too much….if you need to say it, are you, or are you convincing yourself you are

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yep to both. Anyone living even a semi-self-examined life, is made happy to just feel barely content enough to find reason to continue to live that semi-self-examined life.

        Existence precedes essence or, as long as the Good Lord is willin’… the small change of a Janus coin.

        Like

  15. I didn’t know I was unhappy until it hit me one day that I was allowed to be unhappy. I try to be upbeat and positive, finding the best side of all situations, putting the best spin on the story and one day I just realized that I had spent the last 35 years putting someone else’s happiness above my own. Hearing constant complaints and dissatisfaction from someone day after day was bound to finally wear me out. Once I realized that I had a right to put myself first occasionally made all the difference. I think happiness has degrees and intensities.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I wonder why women tend to put the happiness of others before our own happiness? I mean, it’s not all women, but enough of them. And you’re right…one day you realize that you don’t always have to be patty positive

      Liked by 2 people

  16. I think your readers basically covered everything I was going to say. LOL!
    A great subject as usual.
    I feel like happy and having joy are 2 different things. I am not always going to be happy, bad things happen fhat make me sad and stressed BUT….I do have an inner joy that reminds me of all the things I do have to be thankful for! That reminds me life is still good, no matter what!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. This is an interesting topic for a year of lockdowns. Happiness is fleeting. I have positive moments and days. I’m very affected on whether or not my immediate family is happy or not. Other people, not as much.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I feel for these kids whose lives were so affected. My worst part of quarantine was my daughter getting laid off her dream job for 10 months and suffering from severe depression. Hard to be happy under the circumstances. I sure do worry a lot though.

        Liked by 2 people

  18. The byline of my blog used to be “Happiness as a spiritual practice.” (Now it’s “Life as a shared adventure.”) Do I care if my family is happy? Well, yeah. I’ve told my husband I don’t care how much money he spends as long as (1) he’s happy, and (2) he brings me pictures for my blog once in a while. He rarely gets grumpy, but when he does I remind him of our bargain and tell him I’ve been robbed! He laughs. It works.

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  19. I don’t usually ask people if they are happy. I do occasionally ask my kids and husband if they are happy. Sometimes I ask if they are happy with what they are doing or happy with where they live or just happy with life in general. I guess it is important to me that the ones I love are generally happy with where they are in life. Not that I can fix it if they are not, but to know if they are not happy maybe I can help, lend an ear or maybe give some ideas.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t usually ask if my daughter is happy. I’ll ask if she’s sad or upset, or excited, but I never ask that question. I guess I don’t want her to think that happy is really a destination

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Well I came to this party incredibly late today! I don’t really have anything profound to add to the discussion as so many have made excellent comments already. I will just say that I do think many people are afraid to ask for fear that the person will share and so many of us then feel an obligation to find answers and solve problems. We forget that listening may be the most important thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Hmmmm. Happiness is a concept. It is defined differently based upon how you were socialized; and, how you internalize the concept of happiness. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about happiness, because to think about happiness, is to remove yourself from the context of being happy. Meaning, when we focus on whether or not we are happy, we are already operating on an assumption that we should expect to be unhappy. However, when we focus on each moment, and just being present, living these moments fully, we can be surprised at just how much “happiness” is available at any given moment. Always fun, LA. Great question.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Yep, that is very normal, especially in the US. We are socialized to this type of activity. I did the same thing for many, many, years. Even today, I still get caught up in it, at times.

        Liked by 1 person

  22. I don’t ask if people are happy, but if I notice someone is upset or feels off, I do ask why. But then again, that’s for the people I already know. As for people I just met, I think that’s too personal a question to ask.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I don’t ask if people are happy, but if I notice someone is upset or feels off, I do ask why. But then again, that’s for the people I already know. As for people I just met, I think that’s too personal a question to ask.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Happy all the time is unsustainable, and probably a medical condition. More natural is up and down but the ride neither goes too high or too low. Perhaps what we need is an equilibrium that high midway with a focus of gratitude and being content.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. I think asking someone I don’t know well If they are happy is a bit weird, but your post makes me think I should ask friends if they are happy. Deepening the connection with others is one Of my goals and that would open up so much more conversation.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. sometimes I wish your podcast was like your comments section. A round table discussion on the topic at hand. There is a feature where you can record comments and insert them into the podcast and do multi audio connections. Your blog is the only blog I read that is primarily geared to reader interaction with a question.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Good post and comments. I found out my son’s college roommate dropped out of school. My son is a little distressed by this–as much as he will show his mom anyway. The kid seemed like he was very intelligent. As much as my son knows it may have been a mental heath issue but he still doesn’t really know. Sounds like the roommate mostly stayed in the room and didn’t engage socially very much–despite offers from my son and others. I have to think the pandemic restrictions exacerbated this—-having zoom classes and decreased social interaction for everyone can’t be good.
    Even though I really don’t know the kid well at all–my heart aches for him. Did anyone care that if he was happy until it was too late?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly what I’m thinking. Do we care, do we try…what do we do? How do we do something. It’s tricky because we do need to take care of ourselves. However, shouldn’t we also consider those in our lives? I wish I had better answers, but all I can do is try to be more aware.

      Like

  28. I believe happiness and joy are two different things. Happiness is dependent on circumstance while joy can transcend circumstances and is a part of an overall mindset towards life. Each can wax and wane, depending on where we are in life and personal awareness. I’m becoming more aware of subconscious cues of others when I talk with them. I’ll ask students “how they are doing” and get a checklist of everything they have to do. When I stop them and ask if they are okay, I get different responses. Sometimes it takes patience and persistence to help someone reveal to you what is really going on in their life. My oldest grand girl is an example of this. Grace and understanding are required for someone to open up and share their soul.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. I’m approaching my response from the perspective of your daughter and her potential roommates back when I was in college. I moved into the dorms “late” and so ended up being assigned a roommate. Many years later, she told me she thought I was never happy because I was crying all the time. She was right about that then, yet she continued to put up with me! We were roommates off and on for most of the rest of our college careers and even for the year after. IDK but I guess maybe because we were so different from each other in the long run we each got a kick out of the other and learned to appreciate and even enjoy those differences. I think for both of us it was a big part of our college maturation process, and we really did mature! I mentioned that we were roommates off and on. One time when I picked someone to share an apartment with, someone I was in a club with and who was much more outgoing and more of a leader than I was and thus someone I thought I could learn from and wanted to emulate, it ended up to be one of the worst experiences of my life. Talk about REALLY unhappy! Mostly I was just really lonely because this person I idolized didn’t want to share any of her “good stuff” with me. Bottom line, college is a good time to establish what type of person you want to live with and possibly have as a life long friend. The roommate who didn’t know me and saw me crying every day (and to this day I guess I really don’t know how or why she put up with me in that state – probably she was and is just a really kind person) is still one of my best friends!

    Liked by 1 person

  30. I am happy for sure I am alive ans healthy and blessed with another day to be a mom to my healthy beautiful daughter and be a wife to my amazingly healthy and strong husband…I am blessed to have my mom with me to give her all the love and care ans time I can and I am truly blessed to have my beautiful healthy family surrounding me with an abundance of love….I am happy because I am blessed 🙏🙏🙏🤗🤗🤗

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  31. Life itself is the meaning of change, so how can we expect happiness to be a constant thing, surely with the ups and downs of life we ​​become happy or sad. I believe that we must be strong enough to accept change and deal with it instead of getting anxious in search of happiness.

    Liked by 1 person

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