This morning I was talking about Hope. This afternoon I want to talk about “happiness”. This is another complex topic that needs a lot of thought. To be honest, I’m not sure I’ll be able to write about it effectively. But I’ll try.
To begin with, what is “happiness”?
Happiness is a state of mind or feeling characterized by contentment, satisfaction, pleasure, or joy.
Taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Happiness
I agree whole heartedly. When I’m feeling content, I’m usually happy. I sat back and thought about the people I know. Are they happy? Some are not, I know that without doubt. But others appear to be happy, yet I know they have a lot of problems, so are they really happy?
Thinking about this made me think about what these people have and if that makes a difference.
You might think that happy people have lots of money, are physically attractive, have great jobs, or own the latest gadgets. Or, you might just think happy people are plain lucky and are born that way.
Research suggests, however, that there are a number of variables that make a far greater contribution to happiness than external and superficial factors.
That doesn’t mean that if you have a lot of money you won’t be happy- or that having a lot of money is bad, it just means that other factors are more important in determining happiness. In fact, a strong positive relationship between job status/income/wealth and happiness only exists for those who live below the poverty line and/or who are unemployed.
What distinguishes happy people from the unhappy is their attitude – they have a different way of thinking about things and doing things. They interpret the world in a different way, and go about their lives in a different way.
My friends who seem happy have huge mortgages, family issues and health issues. They have suffered loss and grief. One even talks about feeling isolated from her very elderly mother who is in her 90’s and who lives a very long way away. Yet when I’m around these people, they are always smiling and laughing. They are always cheerful and giving off the vibe that everything is good in the world. In their own way they are happy.
I know a person with absolutely nothing, except a few clothes, a bed to sleep in and the companionship of someone he loves. They don’t have what most households would call “essentials”, like a microwave oven or home beautifiers. They don’t own a car or have much money for extra (like holidays or Playstation games or dining out), but they are truly happy. Happiness radiates from this couple.
But what about me? What makes me happy?
It’s a really hard question to answer honestly. I think I would be truly happy if my worries and fears were taken away from me. That’s a pretty big ask and I look over what I’ve written and can see that my words make out that I’ve never been happy. That isn’t true. Happiness is just something that comes and goes, like the breeze through an open window or a summer shower.
I look back over my life and I believe I was truly happy as a child. I lived with my parents and brother. I’m aware now that my parents struggled financially, but they always took us out and about and although they never said the words, I knew I was loved. I never doubted it for a minute. Back then, I didn’t have to worry about mundane things like paying bills or how I was going to put food on the table. My biggest concern was whether or not the sun would be shining on the weekend, when we planned to go to the beach.
My father told me once that as a family we used to make the best of any situation. He would ensure we laughed … often. He would ensure we never wanted the expensive stuff because we were too exhausted from the active life he gave us to think about anything other than the next outing. Whilst other families were eating big meals in fancy restaurants, we were blackening bread over an open fire and calling it toast. Do you think the kids having that meal in the restaurant remember the meal they ate? No. But my brother and I remember that toast with fondness.
As an adult, happiness is harder to hold on to. But it’s all about the way we look at life, not the possessions we own. Feeling loved and secure has a lot to do with it, but isn’t a guarantee. Being happy is about making the most of the situations we find ourselves in. It’s about our attitude.
I’ve been through some tough times, but I’ve seen some good times too. I guess, in the end, we need the bad to appreciate the good. Happiness is achievable if we really want it. I believe we need to be realistic and be modest in our wants and then we’ll be able to reach out and take happiness in our hands. In my opinion, the key is to find ways to make us smile and laugh on a daily basis.
Have you laughed today? What would make you happy?