hap•pi•ness: a state of well-being and contentment : JOY
Merriam – Webster Dictionary
What is happiness to you?
Is it a goal? A place? A person?
So many different happiness ‘gurus’ are claiming that they can teach you how to find it, but the funny thing about happiness is everyone is hustling and chasing it and not many people seem to understand what it is in the first place.
When people meet you they ask you things like, ‘Are you married? Do you have a job? Do you have a house?’, as if life is some list you need to tick off. But what nobody asks is, ‘Are you happy?’
Some people spend their whole lives working themselves to the point of burnout thinking that the big paycheck will deliver their idea of happiness. Some chase the idea of the perfect partner, house or body. But will any of those things actually bring you joy?
There’s no doubt that having a comfortable income, someone by your side or a healthy body, will bring you some level of contentment – but is it everything? And will the satisfaction last?
If the answer was yes, we wouldn’t be hearing about millionaires hanging themselves in their apartments, leaving behind loved ones. We wouldn’t be seeing celebrities struggle with substance abuse and anxiety. After all, they seem to have everything most of us are hustling after, don’t they?
Is it even fair for us to place the burden of happiness on something else or someone else other than ourselves? And what would that say about our control over our lives?
If we spend our lives waiting for something or someone to deliver us happiness, guess what we will be unraveling instead? A long life of disappointment and frustration.
I know a girl who spent years struggling with obesity and she was miserable because she thought if she had enough money to get a gastric bypass she would finally be happy and confident. Well, one day she got the money, and she got the surgery, and she lost all the weight that she once thought was the source of her misery. Is she happy? Is she confident? Six years after she lost all the weight, she is still the same miserable self conscious woman she was the day before she was wheeled into the operating room. The way she perceived herself never changed.
People seem to be really talented when it comes to listing all the reasons they may have not to be happy.
‘My kids are exhausting me’
‘My partner and I are fighting’
‘My job is stressing me out’
‘My mother is ill’
‘My car broke down’
The list goes on and on about all the unfortunate things they have fallen victim to.
‘I am grateful I have the ability to bear children who are happy and active’
‘I am grateful that my partner and I still have the willingness to work things out’
‘I am grateful I have a job that puts a roof over my head’
‘I am grateful that I am able to take care of my mother and make her comfortable’
‘I am grateful I can afford private transportation’
Saying you are grateful does not cancel out the negative situations life throws your way, but it pivots the focus of your energy away from them. If you focus on why you can’t feel happy, you never will.
The reason is, feeling happy or unhappy is never an external thing. It is completely internal. No matter what life blesses you with, if you don’t have the right mindset configured from within you, nothing will every bring you joy. If you wait for your partner, your boss or circumstance to make you happy, you will never have true control over your life and how you really feel.
It’s the same with anger. So many people are quick to blame others or situations for making them angry and acting out. Truth is, things happen, and they continue to happen all the time to everyone. Whether they are pleasant or unpleasant things, you choose how to react to them. Nobody else can make you feel or act a certain way.
I was very miserable at my job. I would reach the office every single morning and complain about everything that was wrong with the unpleasant situation I was in. Mostly, I was miserable because my effort was not being recognized. It ate away at my energy, it made me bitter, literally made me ill and I can’t imagine that I was a ray of sunshine to anyone who stopped by.
One day I got sick of it. I got sick of the heaviness of the air I had learnt to breathe in every morning. Quitting my job was not a practical solution at the time and I realized that if I didn’t change my mindset I would continue to feel this way no matter where I worked.
So I asked myself how to bring happiness in this situation. I realized that I had placed my idea of happiness as a goal to be reached when my boss would finally recognize my hard work, and that was unfair to me.
I was working hard anyway wasn’t I? And what if our bosses have their own issues and don’t know how to express gratitude? Maybe they have insecurities about hardworking subordinates (believe me, that’s a thing) or a million other reasons why we may never get the reaction we are looking for from the person we have burdened with ‘making us happy’.
So I decided that I wasn’t going to work towards having my boss express anything or reward me with anything. I decided to work to satisfy myself and to congratulate myself when I had done a good job. I decided to switch off the negative air and try to create a ripple effect within my own department.
I began something I called ‘Happy Sunday’. Everyone hates the first day of the week, so instead of coming in and expressing how we all wished we were somewhere else, I decided to make Sundays something to look forward to.
It wasn’t a big deal really. A co-worker and I started off by printing positive quotes and taping them on water bottles or pinning them on donuts and giving them out every Sunday morning. Every week we would do something simple like that and, at first, co-workers thought we were silly and that we were wasting our time. But guess what? People started to look forward to Sundays. If I wasn’t there on a Sunday people would notice and start asking about their missing treats.
It brought us joy from a very simple thing; and we didn’t do it because we were looking for anything external to bring us satisfaction. A few months afterwards, we were called in to the office of our big boss. We were intimidated and worried. Why was the general manager asking to see us in person?
He sat us down, pulled something out of his drawer and placed it on the table. To our surprise it was a water bottle with one of our quotes on it. He told us he noticed a shift in the staff and asked around and then found some of the things we had made. He was so impressed by the positive effect it had that he decided to take on the cost of any ideas we had to make employees happy.
The point of this story is, when you shift your focus from waiting for someone to give you happiness, to focusing instead on bringing out the happiness within you, things you want start falling into place on their own.
Happiness is not a thing.
It is not a fast car or a shiny ring.
It is not a purse or a piece of birthday cake.
Happiness is an emotion. One you choose to look for.
It is the way we can choose to experience things.
Try writing five things you are grateful for every morning and every night. Keep doing it and notice the change within you. Choose to look for joy and love in any situation and watch how your life shifts.
If you think that only sunshine can bring you happiness, then you have obviously never danced in the rain.
“Keep choosing happiness daily, and happiness will keep choosing you back.” – Fawn Weaver