Does Happiness Have A Universal Definition?

By Sianne D.

Does Happiness Have A Universal Definition? – a self-reflection article after a week with Outreach360 in the community of Jinotega, Nicaragua 

What is true happiness?

Although I don’t know what it is exactly, I do know that for our community, it is something that has evolved over time. For Jinotega’s community, though, it is something far more rare and unique.

In our small world, we mostly rely on the future as a source of happiness. For instance, we do so many things in order to reach a destination that we’ve been told can give us complete fulfillment. However, in the midst of journeying toward that happiness destination, we get caught up in the unnecessary stress associated with obtaining that state of euphoria. We begin to lose sight of what exactly we’re trying to achieve. Gradually, our mind gets lost and we forget what we’re living for. This is all a result of living in the future. We tend to rush through each day in order to get to the next, and overlook every pleasant moment.

On the other hand, during the ten days I stayed in Jinotega, I witnessed a completely different way of attaining happiness, one so genuine and special that it seemed too good for this world. I had the pleasure of meeting the sensational individuals who pursued this type of fulfillment. They lived for everything that the world had to offer them; they were grateful for every single little thing that could make them happy. In short, they lived for the moment and nothing else. This is something that our community is foreign to. In Jinotega, whether it was a child I was teaching or a stranger I passed by in the city, I could see the sincere delight in their smiles. It seemed like they were grateful for simply being alive. These were people who basically had nothing in comparison to our luxuries; yet, they were unbelievably content.

Seeing this, my view of true happiness has changed. At the beginning of our trip, I pitied the people living in Jinotega as I naturally assumed they were lives inferior to ours. Yet, now, it seems to me they might be actually living more enjoyable lives. It is beyond doubt that we are far more privileged than most of the people living in Jinotega. However, other than the basic necessities we are fortunate to have, do all of our other material possessions actually make us happier?

I am not trying to push us to stop buying unnecessary things. At the end of the day, it has become a part of us to fill our lives with objects that we think make us more happy. Nonetheless, I want to highlight that even though those materialistic belongings are a part of us, they don’t control us. Often, we lose sight of what is supposed to make us happy in life. Thus, I really want to stress how important it is to sometimes stop and ask yourself: what am I living for?

The people in Jinotega have shown me that happiness is whatever we want it to be. It might seem like we have no control over life’s circumstances; yet, it is a fact that we’re in charge of what makes us happy and what doesn’t. So next time you get caught up with the little things in life, just stop for a second and think: how can I make the most out of this moment?