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Illustration courtesy of: Andrew Rae

What The F*ck is Happiness Anyway?

Have you ever asked yourself: Where am I heading? What is in store for me? What is my purpose in life? Am I making an impact in this world? Will I ever? Where did I come from? Why am I here?

If you have, then congratulations! You are a human being.

The human race throughout history has sought to define happiness describing it in many different abstract ways. I couldn’t help but wonder, how was the concept of happiness perceived by our ancestors? By the people who came before us? By the Cro-Magnon? Was it just the pure essence of feeling safe? Was it just a hedonist thought as it is today? Or maybe they were just too busy to think about it due to all the hunting and gathering and the ‘trying not to get trapped in the food chain’? Or maybe they were too oblivious to picture it.

Across the centuries philosophers and intellectuals have weighed in on their own individual views of happiness. Yet, nobody seems to agree upon the same term, is happiness a universal sentiment or an individual one?

In today’s society happiness is mistakenly confused for materialism. You often hear people saying that by getting a bigger salary or a higher social position, they would certainly be happier or get a taste of happiness at least. It seems that all you have to do is make money and achieve more and more infinitely without any kind of proportion nor limits and then you’ll get access to the most sought after emotion, that elusive thing called happiness. The truth of the matter is that this is another big societal fat lie. To be content you don’t have to own an enormous house, a fancy sports-car or a huge bank account. Happiness is within you and what you love the most.

Back in 2011, I was backpacking across Vietnam for almost three months. I remember seeing people enjoying life at its utmost, there in their rural impoverished towns surrounded by extensive lush green rice fields, riding old-fashioned bikes around the steep hills with wide smiles and an incredible smashing positive attitude. Kids would usually be seen playing outside in the mud making their own toys with plants and used bottles. I remember entire families having dinner outside with their neighbors in their humble doorways. Having a blast with delicious but simple homemade meals which were often shared, even with me, a complete stranger to them not even capable of speaking their language. Back them, with the only language we could speak was the language of love and joy. And we did.

For them happiness was a different concept. It was not about what they owned or did not have, but about simplicity and rejoicing in their culture with their families and friends without worrying about having less. For me it was an eye-opening experience. I will always cherish my trip there. It made me think about our spoiled western mindset and how we see and pursue success, often by thinking that by owning stuff and spending more time working for them,will bring us some happiness. But we are doing it wrong. Joy is not only within us but it requires almost nothing. It’s that simple. You came to this earth naked and the rest is just extra, an add-on. Happiness is finding that simplicity and cultivating it.

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Making new friends at the Luc Ngan village. Circa, 2011

Happiness is being awake even when there is nowhere to go. Having throbbing feelings and joyful thoughts will enlighten your day. Seize the day. Go carpe diem all the way. I bet you that it’ll change you and your surroundings.

Happiness is seeing your bank account empty, knowing but not fretting.

Happiness is earning money by doing a fulfilling job and not by delivering your time and soul to a miserable one, a job that’d mean being trapped into a cubicle office, performing dull tasks sitting at a desk.

Happiness is money well-earned with a job that’s your passion, that you consider your hobby. Something you don’t count the time for. A job that makes you wake up in the morning every day with a broad grin on your face and a good tingling feeling in your body.

Happiness is living in the present and only in it. Getting anxious about what is going to take place in the future is a misuse of energy. Obsessing about something that already happened in the past keeps you from moving forward. By attaching yourself to a time other than the present one you are not living life to the fullest. You are skipping precious moments happening at this very minute. Sometimes it’s all about letting it go and more about loosen it up and rejoice in the now.

Happiness is being comfortable in your own skin. To know that you don’t have to be someone you are not but just the real you. Nothing is better than a good dosage of self-love for the soul and the ego, of course. Go ahead fool around. It doesn’t matter if they call you crazy. To be happy you have to be crazy. Mark Twain used to say that “sanity and happiness are an impossible combination”. It is totally fine to be the underdog.

Happiness is letting the sun touch your skin and invade your body with its warmth.

Happiness is enjoying life as it is. Sleeping all day long and doing nothing. Your bed is your partner in crime. Life shouldn’t be based on endless working hours nor be situated in a grey cubicle office. A good long-sleep will do its wonders and a good outdoors walk afterwards never killed anyone.

Happiness is not giving a damn about what other people think about you. Zero fucks given equals more happiness. This is a formula I endorse endlessly, sue me for what I care. It works.

Happiness is cancelling dinner plans with your friends and tucking yourself in bed with a huge bag of chips and a good movie or book at your side. Don’t apologize for taking time to take care for yourself. Own it.

Happiness is eating that chocolate cookie and the next 10 consecutively and not feeling guilty for it. Happiness is having a Snackccident.

Happiness is sharing moments with your friends. Playing stupid board games or debating about politics and fighting about it. It’s ok, you can love your Trump Supporter friend but please try not to choke them next time you see them.

Happiness is climbing a mountain on a rainy day. Running on a hot summer day. Releasing endorphins makes you insanely and instantly happy. Try it today. I promise you won’t regret it.

Happiness is kindness towards others. Help those who are in need. Don’t you want to have an impact on somebody? Maybe your community? Donate to a good cause and let the universe do the rest.

Happiness is discovering the world and its immense beauty. By traveling you’re not only learning and experiencing new cultures and flavors but also enabling a universal instinct: to explore and broaden your horizons and borders.

Life is too short not to be happy. Start today. It is never too late. In the end, it is up to you and not to an external source. You are a speck in a world filled up with stars. Your universe is within yourself. Go ahead, enjoy your precious journey on earth. What are you waiting for?

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Journalist and multilingual researcher at your service. More stories on

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