“Being happy doesn’t mean everything is perfect. It means you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.” ~Unknown
It’s the question we’re all trying to answer: What is happiness and how do we get it? We fill our lives with the busyness of searching for happiness in many things, yet it’s possible that the very pursuit is taking us further away from the goal.
I spent many years following society’s recipe for happiness.
I was settled with my partner, climbing the career ladder, dining out, buying clothes, and planning nice holidays, but I was so busy chasing happiness, I missed out on moments of joy.
Everyone is so busy these days. It gives us our sense of self-worth; if we’re busy, we’re successful, we’re accomplishing things, we’re important, and we’re needed.
As a result we can often be too busy to notice if we are happy, and potential moments of joy pass us by.
We think happiness arrives at a point in the future when our lives become perfect, with a backdrop of fireworks and fanfare, without any disasters or annoyances. But happiness generally doesn’t come in the form of winning the lottery or marrying from Brad Pitt. It’s often more subtle and smaller.
For example: a sunny day at the beach, your favorite slippers, lying in the arms of the one you love on a lazy Sunday morning—it’s all happiness. We just need to learn to recognize it, appreciate it, and cultivate it.
Brené Brown puts it well in her book The Gifts of Imperfection: “Joy is not a constant. It comes to us in moments—often ordinary moments. Sometimes we miss out on the bursts of joy because we’re too busy chasing down extraordinary moments.”
Happiness is not about a final destination of pure perfection, but more about a journey through life, with moments of perfection sprinkled throughout, if we just stop to notice them.
So how do we find those moments within our own lives and ensure we can get more of them to create a life full of happiness?
There are two main ingredients for experiencing joy every day. The first is living in the present.
How can we be joyful if we’re too busy worrying about the future or going over the past? And how can we be joyful if we’re too busy?
Take time to smell the roses and be in the now; that’s where the joy is.
People wait all week for Friday, all year for summer, and all their lives for happiness, but by the same token if we are always rushing to get to the next place, we can’t take time to enjoy where we are.
The second ingredient for happiness is gratitude. If we appreciate all that we’re fortunate to have, rather than spending our time and energy going after what we don’t have, we’ll experience more joy.
In our consumer-driven society, we’ve put too much emphasis on having many things—bigger houses, better cars, the latest in fashion.
It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that if you have something you want, you’ll be happier with more. And we struggle in the modern world with debt, obesity, and addiction as a result of this mantra.
We are also prone to comparing ourselves with others and wanting what they have (their house, salary, partner, looks). These are surefire ways to extinguish our gratitude and rob us of our happiness.
There’s always joy to be found, even in the mundane moments of the day, and we can tap into this by being more present.
Next time you’re sitting in a traffic jam, rather than becoming resentful of the delay or whisked away in a daydream, why not take a moment to see what you can appreciate?
Maybe it’s the nature outside, the sound of the birds, the sun shining, or just the fact you have a car to drive in and somewhere to be going.
I hate winter. I even travel to the other side of the world each year to avoid it. But even on the coldest, wettest, darkest days, I can find joy.
Maybe it’s the feel of my cozy, warm bed sheets, or being curled up by the fire with the cat and a good book, or the clean crisp look of the landscape after the first snowfall.
I try to find something to be grateful for every day, even if this is just breathing clean air, being alive, being healthy, or having an abundance of food.
There are so many people worse off than we are, but we often overlook the small things that others would be so grateful for.
I’ve also uncovered joy from “happy lists”—lists of all the small things you like to do that make you happy. It’s important to find time to do these things often. It may be a walk on the beach, listening to your favorite music, having a hot bath, or sitting in the garden with a cup of tea.
As Robert Brault said, “Enjoy the little things for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”
Rather than waiting for happiness to arrive, I’ve changed my perspective to realize that it had been there all along; I just hadn’t noticed. If we look hard enough, we can find moments of joy in every day. Or, if the day is a particularly bad one, reach for your happy list and create your own joy.
Jumping for joy image via Shutterstock