Happiness is the one thing we all want most in this life, the one thing most of us will spend a good deal of our time searching for. In fact, I'm willing to bet that you are looking for happiness right now. If so, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you're never going to find it.
The fact that any of us are even looking for happiness means that we don't quite understand it. I wasted a lot of time in pursuit of my own little piece of happiness before learning that I was wasting my time. Let me explain.
As a middle school student you probably learned about the science of energy. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. It simply exists, waiting for us to harness it for our use. In this sense, happiness is the opposite of energy. Happiness does not and cannot exist on its own in nature.
Happiness is not a commodity that can be bought or paid for. It is also not some wily creature living in the dark corners of the earth, laughing at our attempts to capture it. And it is not a object that merely attaches itself to a person, a place, or an event, and then waits for us to run into it someday.
No, the reason that you will not find happiness is because it cannot be found. To have it, one must first create it.
Let me repeat, happiness is created. By you. By me.
You've probably heard that happiness is a choice. Having dealt with depression in my life, I have a hard time believing this idea. When the world around you has been sapped of its color, it is almost impossible to simply choose to feel happiness. Likewise, sometimes we face challenges that seem totally insurmountable, and our hearts are twisted so tightly that it feels as though all the happiness has been simply wrung out. "Choosing" to put that happiness back would be like attempting to put an egg back into its broken shell.
Creating happiness is different. When you create happiness, you are building something new -- something that didn't exist before. You are not simply filling the void of an old happiness that you have lost. You have to work to make something unique that will open up spaces in your heart you never knew existed, and re-inflate that heart in a new way.
Learning to create happiness is not always easy, and it doesn't happen overnight. I wasted a lot of time early in life thinking, I'll be happy when... I'll be happy when I go to college... I'll be happy when I graduate college... I'll be happy as soon as I begin a real career... I'll be happy when I get married and have a family... But as I started to reach some of those milestones, I was disappointed to find that the happiness that I had imagined secured to them was not there.
So I decided to change. I decided to try creating my own happiness. When life was hard, I would take a deep breath and step away from life. Creating happiness can be as simple as that. It can be taking time to notice the beauties around you. It can be painting a picture, participating in a hobby, or doing something nice for someone in need.
Do something that you enjoy, try something new, tackle something big that you've always wanted to do. Don't be afraid to be silly or to mess up. Just go for it! You are bringing something new into existence! Put your all into it, and you will be able to feel happiness being created. Involve others -- people you care about like friends and family -- and you will be almost sure to create happiness.
When I was in college, playing Rock Band was something I did to create happiness. It may sound dumb, but it worked for me. I would crank up the sound, strap on a guitar, and dance around the room as I played on the keys. When one of my roommates walked by and saw me doing this, laughter would invariably ensue. Then she would usually join me, and the little bubble of happiness that I had formed for myself would grow and grow until it engulfed us both.
I created happiness in other ways as well. I found ways to serve others and to take joy in menial tasks. When I put my heart into creating happiness, I found that it was easy to carry around with me. There was no longer a need to wait for it to fall into my lap.
Sure, I still have bad days, hard weeks, and even devastating months. But I know that no matter what happens, happiness will not evade me forever because I have the capacity within me to create it again. And you know what? I believe it is because I learned to do this that I was even able to achieve some of those goals that I used to dream would bring happiness to me! Creating happiness has helped me reach my goals, but more importantly, it has made life not only bearable but wonderfully enjoyable.
Please stop looking for happiness. You will never find it. Sometimes it may seem as though you have, but believe me if you didn't create it, what you have found will be both false and fleeting. The only real happiness is the kind you create for yourself.
Side note: If you're having a hard time getting started and aren't sure exactly how to make happiness, go do something nice for someone else. Service is one of the easiest ways to grow a little sprout of happiness, because it involves helping another to create their own.
This post first appeared on Forward Walking, an online magazine dedicated to helping people move forward through the challenges, trials, and heartaches of life: forwardwalking.com