“Happiness is the absence of striving for happiness.” ~Chuang Tzu
My niece is nineteen months old and the most present person I have ever hung out with. If you have children or are around them, you know exactly what I am talking about.
I know you want more joy, health, and lasting happiness in your life, we all do.
Could it be that instead of only teaching our children the lessons of life perhaps we should let them teach us the lessons of happiness?
I don’t live in the same city as my niece so time with her is very important and most of it is spent observing and playing. It got me thinking about her abundant joy and how I should take these lessons to heart.
Here is what she is teaching me about the secrets to happiness:
Don’t think about playing; just play.
My niece doesn’t think about playing or how to play, she just plays. Just like a blade of grass doesn’t intend to grow, it just grows. But we get so caught up in thinking about doing something that we think that contemplation is action, but it couldn’t be farther from it.
Are you practicing making a change to your life so much that you forgot to make the change happen? One of my mottos is “Ready, fire, aim,” because if I think about it too long, I will talk myself out of taking action. Don’t think about playing, just play.
Stop and listen to the birds.
One of my niece’s favorite things is to listen to the birds in the morning. When was the last time you listened to the birds at dawn? When was the last time you smelled a blooming flower? When was the last time you took over an hour to eat a meal, savoring each bite?
This is mindfulness and it is so good for creating happiness. Part of mindfulness is practicing gratitude. It’s hard to be grateful if you don’t stop and notice all the good things in your day. Stop and listen to the birds.
Explore above, below, and everything underneath.
Like most children, my niece is incredibly curious. Everything is new to her, so naturally it has to be explored. She has to explore every aspect of something new, no matter if it’s chalk, the sound a bell makes, or what ice cream tastes like. Her entire day is one big exploration of life.
As an adult I get set in my ways; don’t you? We are so content in our ways we forget about new ideas, new perspectives, and new ways of doing things.
When was the last time you took a new route to work, tried a different restaurant, jumped in a pool, or danced? Happiness is in the joy of the moment, and there is no greater way to create joyful moments than to explore new things. Explore above, below, and under everything.
Bath time is a cause for major celebration.
For my niece there is no greater activity than taking a bath. Total happiness ensues as she gets placed in her tub. Everything about a bath is full of joy—the water, the splashing, making bubbles, and time with her parents.
When was the last time you reveled in something like a bath or even a hot shower? Instead, we get in to get clean and spend the whole time rushing through to-do lists in our heads. Use your bath or shower to cleanse your thoughts and enjoy the experience. Bath time is cause for celebration.
If it’s funny, silly, or exciting, then laugh.
A child laughs an average of forty times per day. An adult laughs an average of fifteen times per day. If something is funny, silly, or exciting, then my niece is laughing. Some are small giggles and some are deep belly laughs. Both are full of present happiness and joy.
There is so much to laugh about. Don’t worry about looking silly or being the one with the loud laugh. Laughter is contagious and immediately changes your mood. If it’s funny, silly, or exciting, then laugh.
Above all else what my nineteen-month-old niece is teaching me about happiness is to be present and enjoy the beauty of life. There is much to be grateful for and enjoy.
Instead, like many, I can easily get wrapped up in deadlines, feeling bad about my body, relationship drama, or fear of failure. All of these are self-created.
If I really stop and just notice the world around me in that moment, I see trees and hear birds. I enjoy the sunrise and sitting with friends. There is no anxiety without anticipation. And you cannot anticipate the present moment; you can only be in it.
Photo by Mindy Gerecke