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Being Happy vs. Feeling Good: Stop chasing happiness and embrace the moments you feel balanced.

Updated: Apr 28, 2023

When I was a kid, I hung out with my grandfather a lot. He was a grandfather and all that, but he was just cool. He knew stuff, took us places, talked to us like people, not like kids. I always learned something when I was with him.

While out and about, he would run into friends or neighbors and the inevitable, “How are you?” would be asked. More often than not, my grandfather’s response would be, “Oh, I can’t complain and you?”

I took that response at face value and really didn’t think much about it until one day I asked. “When you say, I can’t complain, what does that really mean?”

He explained how when asked, how you were doing, it would often end up being a gateway to what the other person wanted or needed to say, not really about how you were doing.

You see, he explained, most people could keep you locked into a conversation for the next hour telling you about this or that, sharing their woes, bragging or just plain filling time. That was because there was something going on within them and a casual exchange was a way of getting it out. Maybe they were angry about work or another neighbor. Maybe they had gotten bad news or were in poor health. They got a new car or hit the lottery. Maybe they didn’t get the chance to talk too many people, so they gave you everything they had right then and there when they had you.

By answering, I can’t complain, it was his way of saying everything was good with him, and then he would just let the other person have the floor.

However, I was still curious and asked, “Well then, are you just trying to get out of the conversation, or are you actually happy when you say that?” I remember him thinking about it and then he responded.

“Well, I’m not always happy, but it does mean that I feel pretty good at the time. And if you have nothing to complain about, that’s a pretty good place to be. So, if you can help people get something off their chest, maybe they won’t have anything to complain about either.”

It’s been many years since my grandfather dropped that knowledge on me and it took even more years to understand what he meant.

By saying he couldn’t complain, what he really meant was that he was feeling balanced and content. Balance and contentment are not happiness, but what if it really was and we didn’t even know it?

I’ve spent lots of time in pursuit of happiness in my life. We all have. You know that place where you smile from ear to ear every day, and all is right with the world. But how often do we feel that way? I mean, we experience happiness now and again, but it’s gone faster than that 24-hour deodorant you put on.

What’s the deal with happiness? Aren’t we supposed to have it? Yes, but only when the situation requires it.

It’s unrealistic to believe that we will jump out of bed in the morning in a complete state of happiness and whistle our way through the day.

Reality is, we lay there a bit (while contemplating using a personal day). Finally get ourselves up and out after the daunting task of trying to look half decent. Get through the day. Come home, and try to unwind.

If in the course of the day you heard good news, maybe you were happy. Your neighbor’s new puppy ran over for a few belly rubs when you got out of the car that evening. A little bit of happiness there too. Finally, you opened the mail to find a refund check because you overpaid for something you bought. A little more happiness.

Did these brief moments sustain happiness long-term, or did you experience the normal emotional ebb and flow of the day?

Happiness is fleeting but we chase it every day. Today I’ll be happy. Tomorrow will bring the happiness I want. I’ll he happy when I lose those 20 pounds.

In recent years I have embraced the concept of “feeling good” as my goal. I can’t complain has become my mantra. Of course there are still days I have complaints, but I notice they are a little more manageable when I feel good.

Now, what does “feeling good” mean? Is it, having a few drinks? Winning the lottery? Running amok?

Nope, it’s the realization that everything in life at the current moment is balanced. Neither high nor low. It’s like having regulated blood sugar, no spikes, or dips. Going with the flow. Not beating yourself up or being overly critical, basically seeing the world through an optimistic lens.

I happened upon this state of being as I progressed through my own personal health and wellness journey. I was so focused on being happy that I totally missed the days that were pleasant. Days with no stress, a relaxed feeling, a positive outlook. Dare I say I was, happy those days?

It’s not the giddy happiness that we are programmed to crave but the grounded happiness in knowing, you can’t complain at that moment, and all is well; not perfect, but well.

I began to drink in those moments when I noticed them and made a conscious effort to explore what was happening in those moments. I wanted to be sure I could recognize them and have gratitude for them with an eye toward inviting more of them into my daily life.

I experience more moments of feeling good than happiness and that is quite alright. I’m always open to and pleasantly surprised when my good feeling elevates me to a level of “happiness.” We all need those doses of dopamine and serotonin every now and then.

Overall, feeling “good” brings us a feeling of mental, physical, emotional, and sometimes spiritual peace and clarity.

There can be a feeling of disappointment after happiness is gone because once again, it’s so brief. Feeling good provides a more consistent, satisfying experience.

When you are feeling good, you should be able to ask yourself the following questions and respond primarily with the following answers.

  • Do I have a sense of purpose or goals? – Yes

  • Am I well rested? – Yes

  • Do I have any aches or pains? – No

  • Am I experiencing any sense of stress or overwhelm? – No

  • Am I grateful for what I have and for the people in my life? – Yes

  • Am I taking things too seriously? – No

  • Am I pushing myself unnecessarily? – No

  • Do I have unreasonable expectations of myself and others? – No

  • Am I you ready for what comes next? – Yes

  • Are my priorities reasonable? – Yes

  • Am I making time for selfcare and supporting my health? – Yes

  • If I stopped doing what I’m doing now would everything fall apart? – No

This little checklist is not perfect, but it touches on a few key areas that help you evaluate where you are and cultivate behaviors and actions that support feeling good. You’ll find that you start to make progress in these areas once you begin to notice them. You’ll want the feeling more and more because it is balanced and peaceful.

Happiness in our lives will come and go, just like sadness and hardship.

Feeling good, the absence of struggles and chaos and an abundance of calm, peace, and balance, has many more benefits for our daily lives and overall health. What can we do to reach this state?

  1. Eat well – You’ve heard this a million times, but food does matter. Food is medicine. Eating the right foods, fruits and vegetables, quality meats and cheeses, drinking water, limiting fast food and sugar will work wonders on your mood and your waistline. When you feel good about what you eat, it shows up in your outlook and physique!

  2. Sleep well – I don’t know about you but I’m the worst when I don’t sleep well and that’s a far cry from feeling good. You will be amazed at how an extra quality hour of sleep will make you feel.

  3. Move your body – Take a walk, ride a bike. The bear minimum of movement is better than nothing at all. Movement gets those endorphins flowing and that supports feeling good. The thing about movement is, once you get going, you get hooked on that “feel good” response you get. Just get started.

  4. Spend quality time alone and with others – Take some quiet time to yourself because as I mentioned last week, you can’t be all things to everyone, all the time. However, when you are with those you love, be grateful for the time and be fully present.

  5. Work on projects that matter to you – When you are engaged in an activity or project that empowers you, you can’t help but feel good.

Lately I have been in a place where I can’t complain. It took me a while to get here, but I’d rather be here than anywhere else. Every day that begins and ends with balance is another step toward good overall health. If a little happiness comes along for the ride, I’ll make room for it! 😊

Have you found that chasing happiness leaves you a little flat? What are your thoughts about the goal of feeling good every day instead?

Leave a comment or drop some wisdom on us. My grandfather would be proud of us!

Take care and be well,



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