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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Myths of Happiness I’ve Learned

Once upon a time, it was my goal to be happy. 

I decided that I just didn't want the usual dream of a house with a husband and 2.5 kids. I wanted to be happy. That for me meant that when I was finally on my deathbed, I want to look back on my life and decide that it was a good life and I did a lot of stuff and at the end of it all, I was happy. 

To reach this, I had to read a lot about happiness and try a lot of stuff for myself. Over time, I realized a few things about happiness that was true so I put it in my Happy Journal and now I'm sharing on my blog. Hopefully, some of these apply to you or help you think a bit more about this grand notion called Happiness.

1.   It’s not always the big stuff that makes you happy.
When asked what would make them happy, people may think of a lot of big stuff. Things like a tour of Europe, winning the lottery or quitting their job to pursue their dreams. While any of those 3 would make me very happy as well, I have found that this poses difficulties in more ways than one. For one, if you don’t achieve this big thing, does that necessarily mean you are unhappy? When we set up big and lofty goals for ourselves, (especially those like the lottery, which are out of our control) and we don’t achieve them, we could be setting ourselves up for failure. That’s where we end up telling ourselves, “I’m miserable in my job and I would be happy if I quit but I can’t because I need the money.” Maybe another approach would be better.

2.   Small stuff can make you happy too.
There are plenty of small stuff that can also make you happy. A short list of mine includes: reading a favourite magazine, having a slow cup of tea in the morning, a friendly hand helping me, a seat on the subway, a blue sky with clouds and the smell of rain in the wind. They are not big things like the lottery but whenever I encounter any of these, they put a smile on my face and I feel happy. Certainly they are also easier to come by than winning the lottery!

3.   The hard stuff can also make you happy.
Crafting is hard. Playing an instrument is hard. Even thinking of what to write for my blog is hard. Getting through some of the hard stuff can involve a lot of blood, sweat and tears and a fair amount of cussing as well. If you saw me trying to practise a scale on my violin, you wouldn’t think I was very happy at all.
But the hard part of getting through trying to do something can also make you happy. You see progress being made and you can see yourself improving at a skill you wanted to learn. You persevere and finally at the end of it all, you get through the hard part. After all the effort you put in, you do feel a deep, strong sense of satisfaction that is also a kind of happiness.

4.   You can choose to be happy.

No one is responsible for your happiness except yourself. On a rainy day, some people will see wetness and misery at being stuck at home. Some people will see warmth and comfort at being stuck at home. Same situation, totally different viewpoints. You can imagine who feels happier. Choosing to be happy is not about putting a fake smile on. It is about acknowledging the situation as it is and actively finding the good in it.

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