Of all the things we look for to enhance our lives, we humans, the one that seems to be the object of the most energy, time and money is happiness. Historically we are so desirous of that quality, that it was mentioned prominently in one of the greatest documents of all time—the U. S. Declaration of Independence.
Television commercials are rife with suggestions of all that you need to purchase in order to become happy. Books have been written on the topic, movies have been made, and entire courses of study have been crafted and taught in our colleges in our efforts to define and condense a definition of happiness and how best to go about achieving it.
Everyone has an opinion about this subject and it should come as a surprise to anyone that I do, too.
First—in my humble opinion—I think we are confusing two words: happiness and contentment. We think “happiness” and the images that come to mind are smiles, laughter, a feeling of euphoria enveloping us, making us feel lighter than air so that we are always up, always jolly...um, no.
If that is how you are and how you feel, you may have accidentally ingested some whacky gas. You need to go see a doctor. Asap.
I believe the definition of happiness that we want is the one that means contentment. We want to know that we matter. We want to know that the work we do is appreciated. We want to love and be loved. We want to be able to work and earn enough money to meet all of our essential needs, and some of our non-essential “wants”. We want to feel good about getting up each day, because we have a plan for the future. We want to know that we are someone going somewhere. We want to have moments in the day when we sit back and say, “ahh.”
How do we manage to do—to become—all of this?
I really do believe it begins with a decision. How we look at ourselves, our friends and family, our environment—this outlook plays a large role. And how we perceive ourselves, and everyone and everything else is a deliberate choice. Do we like ourselves? My friends, we really need to do that. We are the only us we have. We have to live our entire lives with ourselves. So we might as well like ourselves. We can decide to like our work, too—and if we absolutely cannot, then we need to find work that we can like.
It doesn’t happen overnight. We can start by appreciating the small things. The laughter of a child. The beauty of a flower. Does your grocery store sell flowers? Mine does. Sometimes I buy them, but I always stop to look at them, for a moment. What about the smell of fresh bread coming from the store’s bakery? Or the scent of a really good burger from your local burger joint?
Did you know that every day comes complete with one free sunrise and one free sunset—yours to enjoy at no extra charge? You can do things for others that cost nothing. Open a door, give a smile, say “thank you”.
These are little things, but knitted together become so much more than the sum of their parts. If you want to feel good about yourself, then feel good about yourself. You are alive. You have challenges? Name me one person who doesn’t. We all have challenges, except those poor souls already interred beneath the grass.
I believe that finding a sense of happiness, of contentment, is vital to our psyches. I believe that we can control that feeling, by choosing it. And I believe with everything that is in me that once we do, once we start that first bit of deliberately choosing to be happy, then the feeling begins to mushroom and grow within us.
It’s like emotional dominoes. Once you get the first one moving, the rest cannot help but fall.