These are stressful times for many people. The global financial meltdown, job insecurity, our investments decreasing in value, slow growth; we can understandingly feel depressed or anxious, and I haven’t even mentioned the daily media bombardment of negativity. What is one to do in these times? Well… why not be happy? Sounds paradoxical, but no, not at all. In fact in these unsettling times happiness can best be the best antidote to help us through it all. There is never a better time to be happy.
But how can you be happy when all this is happening, you might ask. It’s simple—you choose happiness as a daily practice in your life, and then you practice it. Readers of this site probably know that I have written a book called The Practice of Happiness. The title reveals the approach I take to happiness. It is the “practice” of happiness, not the “pursuit” of happiness, that is the key. And there is a big difference between these two approaches.
If you are pursing happiness in your life then you need your circumstances to be exactly as you want them in order to be happy. You need to be healthy, financially successful, in a good relationship, stimulated and excited; you need many things to unfold every day in exactly the way you want them to in order to have the happiness you desire. And even then your happiness can be fleeting, as soon something more will be needed. That’s why those who pursue happiness rarely achieve it—they are always requiring something more and different from what is happening now. But what is happening now is all that you have, at least for today, so a far more intelligent approach is to find something to be happy about today. But is there something to be happy about today? That depends on your habits of perception.
Now I’m going to reveal to you a secret that I reveal in the book (if you haven’t read this book, reward yourself and order it today; it will make you very happy), and the secret is simple. There will always be reasons to be happy in your life, and there will always be reasons to be unhappy in your life. Even though all of us have completely different lives and circumstances, each of us has reasons to be happy and reasons to be unhappy, in fact lots of both. So we choose happiness as the better option.
But how can you choose happiness when you’ve lost your job, have cancer, been left by a spouse, have no hope, are struggling with finances, see no opportunities in sight, have kids demanding your every moment, (add your own reasons for being unhappy)? You choose it because you can choose it and it is good for you. Happiness makes you feel less stressed; it energizes your immune system; it lets you think more clearly; it’s more fun, and of course it makes you feel happy, which is a wonderful energy to work with. But it can’t be that simple? I didn’t say it was simple; it takes practice, commitment and a dedication to finding the best and the most joyful in each day, but it can be done. And when we do so the practice rewards us abundantly.
Let my quote from The Practice of Happiness: “We need to remind ourselves that many pleasurable moments exist each day in our life. Understanding this, we make a decision to start noticing them. We take a few seconds here, a moment there, to stop and appreciate the small joys and beauty in our lives. And far from it being a chore, we find ourselves refreshed by this simple practice.”
How many enjoyable experiences do we have in a day? None? I don’t think so. If this is your perspective, then you’ve allowed yourself to be overwhelmed. Each day beings ample opportunities to be happy, and as we notice them and give gratitude for the simple everyday experiences of being human, of having a life, they multiply. Start a habit of noticing these things, appreciating them when they are happening, and you will reap the rewards. Practice finding moments to be happy on a day-to-day basis. Not that every moment of every day needs to be happy, that would be neurotic, but it is equally neurotic to find nothing to be happy about, and this is the neurosis that many people have unfortunately allowed themselves to fall into.
Choosing and practicing happiness as a way to fulfill ourselves, without needing anything other then what is happening now in our life, is an art, and to do this on a regular basis is to master this art. When you learn to notice and appreciate the simple everyday things that can bring us joy and happiness—the sound of laughter, a good meal, a walk in the sunshine, an engaging book, a friendship, a shared moment with someone, the sights and sounds of nature, a work of art, a child’s success—you’ll come to understand that these small blessings are all around us at all times. We are not denying that there are also reasons to be unhappy; it’s just that we choose to not let these be the focus of our attention.
Each of us chooses our own thoughts and attitudes. Choosing happiness and practicing happiness on a daily basis not only enriches us, it nourishes our children, our spouse, our co-workers and everyone who comes in contact with us. Each of us has this choice; it is an honorable choice, one you can choose many times each day, whenever you feel the need. Happiness is what we need right now, and fortunately it is available to all of us each day in abundance.