The Key to Lasting Happiness
Have you noticed just how many big name personal development personalities, how many news sources – even mommy bloggers – are talking about happiness and how folks just aren’t “gettin’ any”.
And it’s true! I mean, on any one day, most of us will have a chance to have a glimmer of happiness: a spark of joy from a kiss from your kiddo, a sparkle of light shimmering in the spider’s web (yes, I connected happiness with spiders – lol), or an unstifled giggle when someone says a goofy joke that hits you just right.
Maybe those are too “airy fairy” for you. Maybe you need shiny new stuff to get your heart fluttering.
What about the charge of exhilaration when you bought your first (second and third) car or new home or got your dream job or perfect mate… Or newest iPhone, leather handbag, gadgets, etc… at least until you got it. Then it doesn’t give you that kick like you thought it would.
You know what I’m talking about. You’re happy for only a brief time, then – poof – you’re on to something else.
The problem with happiness, like love or other feelings, they keep moving the finish line!! Enough is never enough! Thanks to Hollywood, social media and advertising, there is always some new thing to “need”. And you won’t be happy till you get it!!
But the fact is – and it’s my guess it’s why you’re reading this – most of us ache for lasting happiness. It may be nice to have snips of happiness like a sun break on a rainy day but why put up with blips of joy when you can exist in happiness 24/7/365.
Is that a crazy statement? Not according to happiness experts. But I am getting ahead of myself…
Examples of short term happiness
I have news for you, if you are looking for happiness to be something “out there”, something that will happen when you turn a certain age, get to a certain goal, marry or hook up with that certain someone, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Ask me how I know.
Do you remember as a child that you had a long Christmas list but particularly wanted a certain thing: video game, Xbox, iPod – whatever – you fill in the blank). You burned inside hoping for that thing and knew it would be the pinnacle of joy to open it and then spend hours immersed in playing it. For me it was an 8-track player and my favorite tapes (yes, that dates me – LOL!) I hinted loudly and by the looks on my parent’s faces, it was a done deal. I believed that when I got that player, I’d be so happy!!
Christmas arrived. I received the 8-track player with John Denver and The Carpenters albums to start off my collection. I was in pure heaven. I played those tapes till they broke. But something I noticed, even at that naive young age, I was “happy” while listening, but shortly afterward – droopy Dora.
My next goal toward happiness that comes to mind was to get my driver’s license. When I get my license, I’ll be so happy!! Learning to drive was an exercise in frustration. I took driver’s ed back when they still offered it at school. But the trick was to get plenty of behind the wheel practice. Mom, bless her nervous heart, never even offered. And Dad, well, he tried. I maybe got 2 hours of behind the wheel practice in a stick shift car. A Dodge Colt, as I recall.
Not. Enough. Practice.
When I took the behind the wheel test, I failed. I was too nervous and that just threw the rest of the ordeal off. I went home and practiced for a few more weeks then scheduled another test. I was doing fine through my second test but at an intersection, my car stalled because I popped the clutch too fast. Instant fail.
We are talking humiliating. And top that off – I had to take the school bus. I was not a happy teenager. Totally uncool!
At this point, Dad had sympathy and bought me a Ford Pinto Fastback with automatic transmission and to save the boring details, I – FINALLY – passed! I was sooooo happy!
For about ten days.
It was just not enough to be driving. I needed a job now to pay for the privilege of driving. Ugh!
Soooo, when I get a job I’ll be soooo happy!
Until I had bills and taxes to pay.
In my mid-teen years, when I became conscious of my unhappiness, I started to look for what I later came to know as spiritual guidance. In high school, I met a friend who seemed to be the happiest person I knew at school. I asked her why she was so content and she explained she was a Christian.
Ahhh – I thought. Maybe religion is the key to happiness. So, I went to church with her. (This is the subject of many other articles on this site so I won’t go into it too deeply.) Very quickly, I became a “card carrying” member of a very conservative protestant denomination and in many ways I felt supremely happy. I knew I wasn’t going to hell and that was half the battle for me. But the itch still needed to be scratched. Again, I’ll be elaborating throughout this blog on that subject.
One more example of looking for happiness “out there”. Marriage. I would find my prince. He would love me – be my best friend – provide for me and help me raise my (two) babies. I just knew I would be the happiest girl in the whole USA (reminds me of a song!)
Finding said prince was tricky. ‘Cause I was picky. It didn’t help that I started my shopping at a church as that stiffly narrowed the field but I wasn’t about to marry a heathen! LOL!!
I found my guy, we married and, oh, I was happy!!
For about ten days.
And on and on it goes.
Clearly, all those people, things and events didn’t bring lasting happiness!! Am I right?
So, how do you find lasting happiness?
The conclusion I came to all these many years later – is that happiness isn’t about things, people or events. Not by a long shot. It was all about me being happy with me. Once you are happy with you – it doesn’t matter if you got the 8 track player, the driver’s license or the perfect mate.
Happy is the lens you look at the world through. It’s a fundamental part of your being. I believe we are born happy and then later learn to be dissatisfied. I suppose we learn dissatisfaction when the fundamental needs aren’t met right away: food and warmth (clothing, dry diaper, shelter).
I think we learn to be unhappy when we see others around us acting happy when they have things. We want the thing but really we want the feeling of happiness that thing brings.
But they just weren’t keeping me happy!!
So what is the key to a happy life?
Much as I hate to admit it, the answer was right in front of me in the very bible I read all those years. It wasn’t till I left the church and stopped reading the bible that I started seeing the truth.
The truth is that gratitude – a thankful, content heart – is the key to happiness.
When we start to look at the world through a grateful lens, happiness follows.
Having food and covering, let us be therewith content. So says Paul to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:8ff.
I resented that simple outlook on life. I wanted [husband, children, house, security, working car, etc.] and I knew they were the key to my happiness.
The bible isn’t the only place that states this. All the world’s religions and philosophies state this same wisdom in one form or other. In that sense it confirms that it is truth.
What I didn’t know as a child, young adult, wife and mother was that I wasn’t truly grateful for, settled and content with what I had.
The story/movie Pollyanna comes to mind. I know, I know. We all roll our eyes when we hear Pollyanna say that while she was disappointed there wasn’t a doll in the missionary barrels but instead some crutches. She found she could be glad she didn’t need crutches. At that early age she was learning to be content which set the stage for her to be happy – no matter what. Always look for the good.
Be thankful even in the midst of the “bad”
There is always something to be thankful for – even if it seems bad. Even in sadness and grief we can rise up stronger better people.
But how!? How can you be thankful in the midst of or in spite of the bad? Cling to the fact that you will survive. Remember a time when things were bad but you came through it. You will again – better, stronger.
This is not he end of this… I know I’ll have more to say in the future.