How To Be Happy – Is it Something We Can Learn?

How To Be Happy
How To Be Happy

How to be happy… it’s something we all search for, but what does that word even mean? Happy…

The English language is hard! Tell me if this sentence makes any sense.

All the faith he had had had had no effect on the outcome of his life. Um… wait, what? How about this – define these words without looking them up: Agastopia, Jentacular, Happiness – Ha!

See what I did there? These words only have meaning if we learned how to accurately use them. Otherwise, it’s all gobbledygook. 

So, what does that teach me on how to be happy?

I have had a long, long history of depression and anxiety. My dad commented to my step-mom once that I was a really happy kid. I was goofy, silly, and had a fun spirit.

And from an outside perspective, she admitted it wasn’t something she’d seen from me. I’m not even mad. She’s right. For the last decade, my goofy spirit was squashed.

I forgot who I was, and what I loved. It took a life-altering surgery to bring me back to myself. I wish I didn’t need something so drastic. I wish I knew before just how to be happy.

What Does Happy Mean?

Here’s the definition from the dictionary: Happy describes a feeling of joy, delight, or glee. That doesn’t tell us ANYTHING, though. It’s like describing the sun by saying “It is yellow”.

Happy is your reaction to thing that makes you enjoy living.

It’s the thing that causes you eyes to light up. Or your smile to go from just 10 watts to 1 million watts. Happy is the peel around the orange.

It smells good, it has an appealing color, and it makes you want to reach out to touch it. But nobody eats the peel. The stuff inside, though? Oh, now we’re talking.

Maybe once upon a time, the first guy used the word “Happy”. Somebody heard them use it but didn’t understand the context and so, misapplied it in conversation.

Then it’s like a funny version of telephone, where the meaning was completely lost. So, here we are. Moaning and groaning about how we aren’t happy. Which one of us knows what it looks like to “Be Happy?”

That first guy who used the term must be looking at us the way I look at my toddler. Holding his half-eaten apple, in full-on meltdown mode because someone (him) ate his apple.

How To Be Happy

I get it now: “Happy” isn’t actually a present tense emotion – it’s a category of emotion. There can be so many things that fit into a category.

That is the true purpose of “Happy”. It’s a landing place to catch the random and classify it into a place of belonging. Think of your Pinterest board, if you use one.

If you were to create a board, label it only “Happy” what would you pin? If happiness has a face, then there’d be an image of a smile, but what makes up the body?

My “Happy” board would include chickens, motorcycles, roller derby, Coco Chanel quotes, pictures of me with my family, and being healthy. The images of “Happy” are different for everyone, but the feelings they inspire will likely be surprisingly similar. 

Define Your Own Version

Your “Happy” category likely includes things that make you feel loved, joyful, satisfied, content or at peace, attractive, confident, powerful, or excited.

Maybe lots of other emotions along those lines. If you’re like me, some boards are going to be marked hidden and private.

You don’t get to judge or determine what goes into my happiness category. That is made up of my stuff only. I will allow you access into my boundaries as I see fit.

Boundaries are super important, and one of my boundaries is that if you see this content anywhere but, then the content is stolen, and you’re reading a plagiarized site. So let me know if that happens.

You have this power, too. No one gets to define your happiness content. The more they try, the more you will feel compelled to hide it.

To protect it, not delete it. Forcing someone else to live only within your own happiness content is cruel and damaging to both parties. It prevents authentic living. Do no harm, not to yourself or to others. 

Stop Being “Happy” All of the Time

“Happy” is a category for other emotions to live within. So, it makes perfect sense that we can’t “Be Happy” all of the time. Imagine how I would look trying to hold all of my “Happy” categories at once.

I’d have a chicken under one arm, while riding a motorcycle through my ranch. My roller skates would be laced up, all the while quoting Coco Chanel, in size 7 pants, my family cheering in the background as I focus on smiling pretty for the camera.

I’m overwhelmed at just the thought! It would make an amazing image for this post. And I may have inadvertently created a ridiculous life goal.

One that’d take some serious practice to pull off… talk about hard work and intention! But that isn’t an impossible goal, just like holding more than one big emotion at a time isn’t impossible, either.

It might feel as ridiculous as the image I just described.

But just like I’d work on the individual pieces at a time in order to create this picture, processing multiple emotions starts with recognizing one at a time, too.

Process Your Real Emotions

It feels necessary to say that even if I did pull off that picture, I can’t guarantee I’d even feel “Happy” in that moment.

I think I’d be terrified, nowhere close to happy. After I’d achieved my picture perfect shot, I would then begin to think through how I’d felt.

I’d categorize everything together under the label of “Happy” or not. An interesting thing occurs when I do this exercise of looking back and processing my emotions. I can choose to include the feeling of terror into my “Happy” column.

The same way people with a love of roller coasters, scary movies, or thrill-seeking adventures include those moments in their “Happy” category. If I fake happiness too many times, I’ll forget how to recognize the real thing.

How To Be Happy
A woman in a car, working hard not to eat her feelings anymore.

Change The Way You Think About “Happy”

Understanding this perspective shift around “being happy” has taken the pressure off for me in a wonderful way.

I no longer feel the need to show the world my “happy” side all of the time, which has alleviated the stress and anxiety about pretending to be happy when I’m definitely not.

It’s taking practice and intention. I fail frequently, but I am now aiming for identifying more specific emotions, than happy or even sad.

Today, I aim to identify when I am feeling calm, or content. And when I look back after I’ve achieved that goal, I will be happy.

Changing Your Definition of Happy Can Help Your Weight Loss

When you can stop trying to “feel” through food, you are taking the first step toward eating to live.

Really, eating to live. This is an easy thing to pretend, or tell yourself you are doing.

It’s not just saying it, though. It’s putting only the things in your body that fuel it enough to achieve the thing you actually want to achieve.

This also goes the other way, where you aren’t putting ENOUGH into your body. When you are overweight, losing weight isn’t as easy as just stopping eating.

Your body will stop functioning in the way you want it to, in the weight loss department as well as in the functioning department.

Eating food can be a happy thing, it just can’t be THE thing.

I almost think this could be the “Secret” first step in losing weight. Go read that article, and let me know which one YOU think should come first.

“Happy” Weight Loss <3


For most of my life I was overweight. In my 30s, I became morbidly obese, tipping the scales over 330 pounds. After trying and failing at every diet, I decided to get gastric bypass RNY weight loss surgery. Since 2016 I have been living a much healthier life, I hit my weight loss goals, but more importantly, understand weight loss now. I am determined to share what I now know.

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