Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Is happiness overrated?

It seems that everywhere I go and everyone with whom I speak I encounter conversations about "finding happiness." As if I may turn a corner and find it lying under the dirty clothes on the floor.

I'm not certain why this surprises me. Maybe I take happiness for granted. Others ponder and fret over how to obtain the elusive state. Some seem to feel the need to make a major life change to radically shift their route to happiness. Many think it will arrive with the next promotion, the next house, the next child. Still others add more to their schedules as if activity alone will make provide the key. Am I shallow and just easily sated? (The hubs would say no, without hesitation and I'm certain quite fervently.) Or is happiness, or rather the search for it, overrated?

What does it even really mean to "be happy?" Let's look to the experts (and by experts, I mean people who provide little snippets that are easily quoted):

Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.
- Abraham Lincoln

The greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being.
- Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama

Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.
- Denis Waitley

Happiness is not being pained in body or troubled in mind.
- Thomas Jefferson 

Or, I suppose we can define happiness in the same way the Supreme Court defined pornography:  "I know it when I see it."  

Truly, if you are looking for happiness resources abound. There are aisles and aisles of books devoted to the topic of happiness. Happiness blogs are a dime a dozen. And life coaching has become a formidable industry. But if everyone has the answer, why are so many people still looking? And why are people so innately hard to please? Why oh why can't everyone just be happy?!

I suppose I will not solve this problem here and now. Though, as a great thinker once said: “Everything has been said before, but since nobody listens we have to keep going back and beginning all over again.” {Andre Gide}

So here are a few conventional ways to get your happy on:
  1. Meditation
  2. Prayer
  3. Follow your dreams
  4. Stop comparing yourself with others
  5. Appreciate nature
  6. Find your inner voice
  7. Help someone less fortunate
  8. Count your blessings
  9. Smile
  10. Forgive yourself
  11. Forgive others
  12. Accept what you cannot change
  13. LOVE.
I think the final suggestion, love, is key. The very act of loving feeds our own happiness. By giving and accepting love, we are happier.  Isn't that obvious?! And never does it ring more true than in the truism: happy wife, happy life (or the least common denominator: if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy).

Consider further the relationship with children: We all say our children bring us happiness, though most of us also complain about the many moments in life in which our children drain us of our very being. They wear us down. They bring us to the precipice of despair, but yet, they bring us immeasurable joy and happiness. That relationship encapsulates the very root of happy: love. Our happiness does not come from waking up in the middle of the night for the third month in a row. It does not come from cleaning vomit off our shoes as we walk out the door in the morning. And it certainly does not come from hearing a child scream "NO" over and over and over again. Happiness comes, instead, from the love we pour into our children and the often undeserved and always unconditional love they offer in return.

And no, I am not suggesting that we can only find happiness through our children. That is simply an example of love that resonates almost universally. If we can apply that same concept to all our relationships or life, happiness may indeed be lurking just around the corner.

If we love our job, we will most certainly be happier. If we love our spouse, truly pour love out and accept the love given, we will be happier. And maybe most important: If we love ourself. Truly, love who you are. Love your faults. Love your wonky ways. Love your thighs. Love yourself in your very own skin. If you can accomplish that task, I am certain you will be happy.

Easier said than done, I realize. But I do believe that loving is a choice. I believe love is a verb, an action we take, not something we feel. I do not believe in fairy tale love portrayed in movies. That love fades. I believe that continuing to love another human being or yourself is a choice. A choice we can make every single day. We can choose to love or we can withdraw our love. It's your choice.

As for me, dear friends, I choose happy. Today. Right now. Right where I am.

What about you?  Are you happy where you are now? Are you searching? Or do you think "happiness" is simply overrated?


AndreaLeigh said...

Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.
- Abraham Lincoln

Love this quote! So true!

Joey Lynn Resciniti said...

I'm an expert in being happy with what we have. I think the urge to keep obtaining and achieving more and more keeps happiness just out of reach for a lot of people. I'm sure that by being happy first, I'll achieve just as much and be a bit easier to get along with on the journey.

Eat. Live. Laugh. and sometimes shop! said...

I couldn't agree more!!!

Dalia (Generation X Mom) said...

This is a great reminder for people. With all the things today it is sometimes easy to forget all of this.

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