What really is happiness?

Our Interview with Alayna West & Jessie Sousa

Hosts of the Positively Happier podcast
Positively Happier Podcast
The most popular google search on the term happiness is, ‘how to be happy’. Is there a simple answer to this question?

J – This is definitely a very complex question. Every human is different, and what makes one person happy may not make another person happy. It’s also something that changes with time, as people get older. While there are some things that made me happy as a child that still make me happy as an adult, I think that the fundamentals on what make me happy are not the same as they once were. The focus of our podcast is exploring all of the different things that contribute to human happiness and discovering which apply to our own lives. 

A – Totally! I don’t think there’s an easy answer to being happy. It varies so much for everyone. I think the best thing about getting older is that I’ve realized I don’t care about what other people think. So be true to what makes you happy! Crazy patterned clothes? Listening to music no one else has heard of? Sitting down for the 300th reading of your favourite novel? Go for it. You do you.

Listening to what makes other people happy has been the best part of this podcast. Hearing our guests speak about their passions is really exciting and makes me want to try new things. It’s been really fun putting on our detective hats to investigate what makes other people happy and try to apply some of what we learn to our own lives. 

The second most googled search about happiness is ‘what is happiness’. What are your definitions of it?

J – This is a funny question because over the last little while I’ve noticed more and more people vere away from the word happiness in general. In my opinion, happiness can occur in a moment or over a span of time and I think that’s what makes it confusing for people. You can be overjoyed with a certain experience and deeply saddened by another, but you may still describe your life overall as a happy one. 

To Alayna and I, happiness truly is a feeling of contentment due to a collection of experiences that bring you great joy. This podcast is something that brings us both joy to work on, and the biggest contributor to that is spending time with each other, which has brought us happiness every single time for over 30 years. 

A – This pandemic has certainly also changed the definition of happiness for me. COVID has made me stop to appreciate the things that bring me joy that I may have overlooked – my garden, a simple walk, a call to catch up with friends. It’s also made me appreciate the things that I miss the most, like hugs! I’m never letting go once I get to hug Jessie again. 

What are the main things that contribute most to happiness?

In our initial research for this podcast, we found that happiness often boiled down to four main things: 

  1. Close Relationships
  2. Job Fulfillment / Passion for hobby
  3. Helping Others
  4. Health

We see this trend coming up over and over again in our conversations with guests. 

When we were chatting with the Indigenous musician duo Twin Flames Band, we practically fell off our chairs when Chelsey and Jaaji hit on all four keys as they were talking about their lives as musicians. 

They talked about how making music was their passion, and how they were so thrilled to be on this journey together as life and musical partners. They spoke about how their music provides help to others and highlights their Indigenous culture, and Chelsey said “singing massages her brain” – tying into her mental and physical health. It was such a beautiful summary of how one thing can touch on so many different aspects of happiness.

Is happiness or positivity something you can have all the time? Is it something you have or something you are?

J – I don’t think it is possible to feel happy or be positive all the time. I think that there are situations that are inevitable in life that will bring about sadness or negativity, but it is how you come out of those situations that label you a happy or positive person. Something that we have discussed on our podcast before is how positivity and happiness are a privilege for some, and it’s important to note that if you are a person who is innately happy then you are fortunate. There are some people who struggle with mental health issues that may be unable to or may need assistance in experiencing happy feelings. 

A – Absolutely – I think people can have a tendency to look at the glass as half full or half empty, but it’s greatly impacted by your situation. I’m definitely an optimist by nature – one of my friend’s family still refers to me as ‘Cheerio’ because of my generally sunny outlook. However – this last year has been a real rollercoaster of emotions that has certainly tested this outlook. Being honest about my struggles and talking them out with friends has helped immensely.  We talk a lot about authenticity and openness – pretending to be happy all the time just doesn’t do you any favours. I’ve found it’s way better to be honest about the ups and downs with friends, family and coworkers. It makes you more relatable and just plain human. 

What are specific and practical habits you can cultivate in your life to become more positive?

Writing down 3-5 very specific things that you are grateful for every day is a surefire way to invite a more positive outlook into your life. We’ve found that practicing gratitude is the biggest contributor to positivity. Most people are generally grateful for specific things in their life, but the act of practicing gratitude tends to embed a positive mindset into each day. 

Prompted and free writing journaling are both great ways to visually see the positive and happy moments in your day. Even if you’ve had a difficult day, journaling out your feelings and being called to write out some of the more positive aspects of your day will help change your mindset from focusing on the negative to the positive. 

Setting solid boundaries and taking time for yourself is also super important. During this pandemic, work/family/play have melded together for many people. It’s now more important than ever to carve out a bit of time for yourself to do something that makes you happy. This has made a big positive impact in our own lives.  

Do you have any tips for our readers on how to make professional relationships work with friends?

J – Focus on why you ventured into the project with your friend in the first place and always focus on the fun. Alayna and I try to draw on our strengths and work towards our goals as a team. We don’t keep tabs on one another and we always validate each other’s feelings and support one another at all times. I think that in our specific situation, Alayna and I are harder on ourselves than on each other when something doesn’t turn out the way we had hoped. That might be something we need to work on, giving ourselves a little more grace, or as much understanding and support as we give each other 🙂

A – Totally agree. Lean into each other’s strengths and trust each other. We have different, but complementary skill sets, which has worked out really well. Jessie is really skilled at keeping us on track for the vision for our podcast and the nuts and bolts of publishing the podcast, and I love wordsmithing and playing with creative ideas for Instagram. That balance has worked out really well! Also, don’t be afraid to be honest with each other and keep lines of communication open. Some of our best ideas come from talking things through together.

where Can our readers find you?

Join us on our quest to answer the question ‘what makes people happy?’ on the Positively Happier podcast!  We interview special guests, chat about our own experiences, and learn about cultivating new healthy habits and positively shaping our outlook on life, right alongside all of you. Listen to the Positively Happier podcast on your favourite podcast player (Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, iTunes/Apple Podcasts). 

You can learn more about our podcast on the Positively Happier website: http://www.PositivelyHappierPod.com

Follow along with updates about our new episodes and tips on happiness on Instagram at @PositivelyHappierPod


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