A Guide to Happiness

Learn what happiness truly is and how to find it and make it a part of your everyday life, no matter your circumstances with this guide to happiness.

Sand beach in the middle of the Indian Ocean in Komodo National Park, Indonesia.
Photo Credit: Eat Pure LoveThe Art of Home Education

Contentment and gratitude. Those are my two words for this month. I don’t think it’s possible to truly celebrate Thanksgiving without first practicing contentment and gratitude. Have you always wondered what happy people have in common? Are they all super positive people? What is the key to happiness?

Definition of ‘contentment’

  • n.
    The state of being contented; satisfaction.
  • n.
    A source of satisfaction.
  • n.
    That degree of happiness which consists in being satisfied with present conditions; a quiet, uncomplaining, satisfied mind; content.

Definition of ‘gratitude’

  • n.
    The state of being grateful; thankfulness.
  • n.
    The state or quality of being grateful or thankful; a warm and friendly feeling in response to a favor or favors received; thankfulness.

What is happiness? It seems like you can chase happiness or that you can search for it and find it somewhere. Yup, I looked everywhere for my bucket of happiness, haven’t found it yet. Wouldn’t that be like magic? How is happiness perceived, and why do some people seem happier than others even if their lives look similar?


First of all, let me start by defining what happiness is. Looking up a definition gives me, ‘The state or quality of being happy’. Where happy means enjoying, feeling, or showing signs of pleasure, satisfaction, or joy. Your overall happiness is defined by how happy you are with your life in general and how happy are you at this moment.

Perceiving Happiness

Happiness is all about perception. Are you a glass half empty, or a glass half full kind of person? Maybe you don’t really care, because you learned that the glass is refillable?

Experiencing happiness is a result of something. It is a result of doing something that gives you pleasure, satisfaction, or joy. And you cannot be in a constant state of happiness, which is good to realize. Here are some examples of when you can experience happiness.

When you…

  • are a bucket filler and do something for someone else, that can bring you contentment and therefore happiness;
  • achieve a goal that you worked hard for, you can feel pride and contentment and therefore happiness;
  • see the beauty that fills your heart with joy and wonder, you can experience happiness;
  • stick up for yourself, you can feel vulnerable and proud at the same time and experience happiness;
  • receive a gift, you can feel grateful and excited and experience happiness;
  • have an argument and work it out, you can feel relieved, resilient, and connected and experience happiness;
  • are sick and being cared for, you can feel gratitude and feel like you belong in the community and experience happiness;
  • receive hugs from a loved one, you can feel warmth and connection and experience happiness;
  • understand someone else’s love language, you can make someone else feel loved and in return fill your own heart with joy and experience happiness;
  • have time to spend on yourself, you can feel cared for and loved and experience gratitude and happiness.

Happiness is Not a Constant State of Mind 

Negative influences on happiness

Envy! Some of my kids struggle with this a lot. For example, they are contentedly playing with a toy, only to look over at their brother and want what they are playing with. This leaves them feeling unhappy with a feeling of unfairness.
Why didn’t I get that? This is a feeling of envy, entitlement and unfairness.
Why does he have all the nice toys! This is a feeling of envy, unfairness and possibly a lot more negative feelings.
I want that, now! Here kids are looking for a quick fix for that uncomfortable feeling in their stomach. 

From this example, we can learn that, even though the grass from your neighbors might be greener, there is a lot of truth in the Dutch saying, “If you can be content with what you do have, you will be happier for it.” Whereas if you keep looking at what others have, you can’t fully appreciate what you do have and are left with this pit in your stomach. A pit you do want to fill. But with what?

Non-happy moments

Accepting that you won’t be happy all the time will actually increase your feeling of being content. You don’t have to fake it to experience happiness. Take responsibility for your own actions. Be honest. Cry when you are sad and name the situation. Acknowledge when you are angry. Give those emotions space. Let them out. Honor your emotions, own them, deal with them and move on. Choose to dwell on positive emotions. Dwelling on negative emotions can make you sick. I have learned it is healthier to face what I’m feeling and confront it rather than stuff it in a closet and ignore it. An emotion that is shoved away will only shout harder until I give it the attention it needs. You can compare it to a little kid when you are on the phone.

I feel that acknowledging these emotions is especially important in children. When they learn while growing up to deal in a healthy way with their emotions, they are equipped with tools to achieve happiness. They don’t have to chase happiness; it is already there. All they do is open their eyes and embrace it, living in the moment and feeling contentment and gratitude.

Book Recommendation about Changing your Fortune

Book: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
Author: Grace Lin
Age: I have read this book aloud to all the boys. It is most appropriate for ages 7 and older.

This book is about a girl. Her name is Minli and she lives with her Ba and Ma, Her Ma seems unhappy, always complaining about their misfortune. So Minli wants to change the family’s fortune and sets out on an adventure.

Throughout the book, different stories are told. One is ‘The Story of the Paper of Happiness’. This story is told by Ba and is about how Magistrate Tiger learns about a family that is famous for their happiness. He orders the family to tell him their secret of happiness. They write it on a piece of paper and put it in a chest. Upon opening the chest, the paper blows away. One soldier is able to grasp it, but he can’t read. he does recognize the same character multiple times on the piece of paper and knows it is one word. To escape Magistrate Tiger’s anger the family moves away.

What do you think was on the piece of paper?

The Key to Happiness

The key to happiness is easier said than done. Practice gratitude daily and you will be happy. Who among us was raised practicing gratitude daily? Raise your hand. Well, I wasn’t! No one ever mentioned it.

Without gratitude there is no happiness

Be a Bucket Filler

You can start by becoming a Bucket Filler, and maybe you already ARE one without even realizing it. Maybe you have heard of the 5 Love Languages before and the concept of bucket filling is new. I was introduced to it through the therapy sessions of my boys. We read the book How Full Is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath and learned that everyone has an invisible bucket. Think of it as your love tank. It is filled with everything that makes you feel happy. Good thoughts and feelings. You can fill someone else’s bucket by doing something kind. In return, this will fill your own bucket too.

There are also bucket dippers, people who are unkind or act like a bully. The concept of bucket filling and bucket dipping is very visual and therefore helpful for kids. We did an exercise where we had actual little buckets and we were filling each other’s buckets by writing notes with kind words to one another. And when someone is being mean, referring to bucket dipping is easy. You can protect yourself from a bucket dipper! Just cover your bucket with a lid. The bucket dipper can’t dip into your bucket anymore.

Being able to express love and kindness leads to feeling happier. With a full bucket, it is also easier to fill the buckets of others. That is why self-care for parents is so important.

Be Your Own Best Friend

Talk to yourself just as you would talk to your friend. Make your inner critic someone who cheers you on, instead of puts you down. I don’t know about you, but when I stand in front of a mirror, my inner critic points out all the things that I could change about myself. I would never say that to a friend. That would unnecessarily hurt her feelings. So why should I keep on talking to myself that way?

 Approach the World With Wonder

What I miss about being a child is the curiosity with which I was able to approach the world. I love to see this again in my own children, and I cherish their ability to wonder. Wouldn’t it be great to have some of that back? To truly experience the world with all your senses, be open to the possibility of wonder.

Live in the Moment

It is easy to move from experiencing wonder to living in the moment. Control your mind and stay focused on the here and now. Every time your mind wanders off, go back to today, to right now. Eventually, your mind becomes more focused and clear, because there are fewer distractions. You can really enjoy THIS MOMENT because you are present.

Practice Forgiveness

If it is not for the other person, do it for yourself. Your heart feels heavy with this load and to release it of this heavy burden makes you feel lighter. Let go of the old and make room for new things. Invite new experiences.

Practice Gratitude and Contentment

Practicing gratitude is something you do mindfully. Set a time each day where you say aloud one thing you are grateful for. Do it alone or with your partner and children, for instance during dinner time. Everyone can share one thing they are grateful for and the best part of their day. If you want to start your day fresh and focused, you can start with affirmations and gratitude first thing in the morning. It makes for a better day.

Designed by: Eat Pure LoveThe Art of Home Education

Over time you’ll notice you appreciate your life more. Your focus will shift from everything you don’t have to everything you do have and THAT is what makes you happier. If you realize that what you see doesn’t make you happy at all, know that this is your life, you are in charge and you can shape it.

So tell me, what are you grateful for today? Share in the comments! When posting on Instagram use the hashtag #mamasthankfulnovember and I’ll share my favorites in my stories on EatPureLove.Lifestyle!

Running, care free, like a child! Two of my boys are flying around The Temple of Heaven in Beijing. Arms spread wide and are just enjoying the moment. 
Photo Credit: Eat Pure LoveThe Art of Home Education

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Savannah writes for Eat.Pure.Love and The Art of Home Education. She is a Third Culture Kid and a former Business Intelligence Consultant and works as a blogger and freelance photographer. She is a former Dutchie who currently lives in Colorado, USA, where she homeschools her four special needs children. Are you already following her on Instagram?
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