In our ever-increasing airbrushed society, everyone is seeking after things that will make them happier. We look at other people’s lives and we see endless pictures of parties, fancy dinners, exotic trips and families smiling, that it makes us feel like our lives are lacking. Our continual pursuit of happiness may be the problem though, and in our relentless search to uncover happiness and grasp for it actually makes us feel more and more despondent. Psychologist Iris Mauss was one of the first to explore the idea that the more we chase happiness the further out of our reach it becomes. She was inspired by the recent surge of self-help books dominating the shelves of bookstores all over the US. Mauss notes that, “People might set very high standards for their own happiness as a function of this – they may think they should be happy all the time, or extremely happy, and that can set people up to feel disappointed with themselves, that they fall short – and that could have these self-defeating effects.”
Mauss and others conducted a series of studies including a detailed questionnaire that had statements like:
· How happy I am at any given moment says a lot about how worthwhile my life is
· To have a meaningful life, I need to feel happy most of the time
The more people validated these statements, the less happy they actually were in their current lives.
I’m guilty of this, as I know millions of others are as well. We believe that in order to have a wonderful life, we have to spend it happy-that we shouldn’t have down days. But what is happiness anyway? Happy to you can mean something completely different than it does to me-happiness is objective and always evolving. The people that chase happiness like it’s something you can catch if you run at it fast enough are the ones who seem to lose steam before the race has even begun. It’s only when you can be thankful for what you have and live in each moment in gratitude that you can truly derive happiness that can’t be taken away. Think about the things you believe make you happy. Now think about whether or not they can be taken from you. If what makes us happy can be taken from us, we end up living in perpetual fear that one day our happiness will be gone, that we must endeavour to do whatever it takes to keep it in our midst. This of course causes a great deal of distress and ultimately makes you extremely unhappy.
As you sit wherever you are, look around you. What can you be thankful for in this moment? As I write this, I’m sitting on my love seat with a blanket draped over my legs. My laptop sits on top of a pillow as the clicking keys transform the thoughts from within me onto digital paper and snuggled up beside me is my best friend (my puppy) who wants nothing more than to be in my presence. As I look to my left, the blue ski splashes its background like paint on a canvas-the December air is cool but the sun is shining. Out of my peripheral, my gleaming Christmas tree beckons me to daydream about the wonderful time I’m going to spend with family in less than a week’s time. To the right of me is my favourite place in my house; my kitchen. A place where love is spread through the work of my hands and where nourishment is conceived. I love my house. Everything is in order, it’s calm, it’s quite and it’s just me, my laptop and my puppy. God resides here because I’ve invited Him into my home. I am grateful for this moment, not just because I have a Christmas tree or a house, but because I can be content just being here. I don’t need to be entertained, I can just be. And it’s beautiful.
If you look around you and think about your life right now, not what it will be like one day and not about how it used to be, but really be here, I think you can be happy too. It’s not glitzy, it’s not dazzling, but it woos you in an authentic way. Its simplicity is elegant, and it draws you in without being pretentious. This is where I meet God, this is where I feel at peace. At one point I had wished I would find happiness in the places I travelled to or things I obtained, but it was never there. I was searching too hard, grasping for a carrot that was always out of my reach. I would achieve something and immediately be dissatisfied. The chase draws you in, but the accomplishment is anti-climactic. Why? Because we’ve bought into the lie that we need to be happy all the time.
Here’s the truth: everything “they’ve” sold you is a lie. Everything they promised would make you happy, that would make you more desirable, bring you greater success, always falls short. Everything you bought into is a lie. You and I are cogs in a machine, a number in a line up, a box to be checked off. You are an obstacle in the way of the throngs of people trying to get where they need to go as they weave around you. They’re looking for happiness too. Around every corner they are in constant pursuit of something that can never be bought or sold. Watch them. Watch them go by, hurrying here and there like time begins and ends with them. How happy do they appear to be? How content to they look? How content and happy are you right now? Do you chase happiness like it’s a prize to be received for completing a race? There is no finish line in this life, only a continual progression of movement. Forwards, backwards, upwards and down, we all get to decide which way we move. Happiness doesn’t come to those who search for it, it comes to those who allow themselves to be content no matter what situation they’re in.
Happiness comes to those who are grateful for the present moment.
Have a wonderful week, everyone and don’t forget to enjoy being present today. You just might find it brings you happiness!
All my love,