Just how happy are you willing to be? Most of us don’t think about that question much and seriously consider our answer, even less. 

While we might plan our actions, set some goals, and take steps in the happiness direction, we rarely think about what level of happiness we desire. Or what does that even look like? Perhaps it starts with mindfulness. Being deliberate in daily thinking around happiness, gratitude, and well-being will take us on a journey toward creating a higher level of happiness. Just saying I want to be happy won’t get us there. We must think about what “happy” is. For my dog, Hali, happy is a great milk bone and a comfy bed to lay in. She seems happy when I return home from work each day. Or, at least my human brain thinks those are her “happy”. 

Spending time with a journal might also help you determine what your happy is. What brings you joy? What fills you with amazing gratification? Most of us will find that our happy is not complicated or hard to find. We’ll find that we want simple things. To be safe, loved and healthy.

Not surprisingly, this question of what brings happiness is a question for the ages and the topic at the heart of one of the world’s longest-running research projects. The Harvard Study of Adult Development is considered be the longest study of human life that’s ever been done. Since 1938, the study has followed the same group of people going through their adult lives, through three generations. A question at the center of the study is “What keeps us happy and healthy as we go through life?”

In this Ted Talk, which has been viewed more than 46 million times since 2015, Robert Waldinger, director of the study, talks about the lessons researchers have learned about happiness along the way.

So, as we approach Thanksgiving, I invite you to consider what “happy” means to you. Get outside, touch Mother Earth, write a gratitude post, hug your family and friends and relax into what makes you HAPPY.