Friday, July 27, 2012

Happiness: A How-to

I recently had a friend reach out to me and ask me how I got to be so happy. This same friend called me the one of the most self-actualized people they've seen. While I don't know about the self actualization part (I am living only a fraction of my full potential, but I guess it counts that I realize that) I know about the happy part. I am certainly no authority on happiness. I'm no authority on anything, but I can say that I spend the majority of my days feeling pretty darn good. It happens from time to time that people ask me things like this. That in the process of living my life, someone likes what they see in me and how I'm feeling or what I radiate. I feel humbled when this happens and sometimes I feel inadequate to answer such questions when I still have so much to find within myself , and so much to still straighten out in my life - but I know there's something to how good I feel most of the time, and I know not everybody feels that way. So when asked about happiness I do like to speak up, because maybe it can help. Maybe I can give someone insight into some way to just feel good. I gave my friend a short answer but I wanted to expand upon it. I think that considering ways to be happy and how to be happy or even what happy is, is a very important part of enjoying our life exactly as it is.

I think the most important thing about happiness, and one of the most empowering realizations of my life, is that happiness is a choice. It's not a fleeting ship in the night, something you wait for, it's nothing that requires any outside gift for situation. It only requires deciding that you want to be happy. Happiness means something different to different people, right? So in deciding to be happy we must first decide what happy looks like to us, right. To me, happiness is enjoying the present moment, over and over and over. Making the choice every day in all my moments to see if there's something to appreciate, and then actively appreciate it. Some days I feel like there are things to be grateful for all around me, and it's just glaringly obvious that my life is filled with blessings. Other days I have to really look at the small things. The way bubbles feel popping against my hands in the dish water. The way it feels to sink into my bed. How cool it is that my ankles can stand on a sloped surface and still hold my body straight because of those cool ball-socket joints. I have found that there is always something! We just have to make an active choice to find it, and to know ourselves well enough to know where to look for them based on what we appreciate.

That's not to say I enjoy every moment or that I don't get upset, mad, disappointed or have days where I just can't get out of a slump. I do. But for me, the key is understanding those moments are a part of life and embracing them too. Just letting myself honestly feel what I feel and being able to see the beauty in the balance. Embracing a moment to cry because it's a human thing to do and needs to happen sometimes. Embracing a moment to feel angry or insecure or disappointed because they're human feelings and happen sometimes. Not trying to escape them or wish they didn't happen. Knowing that in their way, they make the simple and pleasurable moments that much better because they provide contrast. And there is a reason to appreciate them. Whether it's because they're providing contrast or because they're signaling to me that it's time for something to change, I am so thankful for my adverse experiences and emotions. 

One of my favorite books has this line. "Even a stunted tree reaches for the light." I think that says it all. We want to be happy. Our nature is to feel good. Life can sometimes turn us away from what we know deep inside ourselves about what peace we can feel. We must never think that we can't be happy or that we are too broken to be. We must never believe that happiness is for others but isn't for us. We must not subscribe to ideas that happiness comes from anywhere but within. We must remember that it is a choice to make, that requires action. Just as we reach for the water to quench thirst, we can reach for the thoughts and experience that make us feel grateful and happy. We just have to decide we love ourselves enough to take that step.

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