What makes you happy? What is it that makes your heart sing? Simple questions, right? Well, maybe not for everyone. If you don’t believe me, find a teenager or perpetual teenager (you know, the brooding adult who still blames everyone else for their problems), and ask them “what makes you truly happy?” It makes sense; it’s harder to think about what makes us happy if we are too busy feeling stressed out or angry. By the way, I’m not suggesting that all teenagers are disgruntled and angry, I’m just suggesting they have a harder time to identify things that make them truly happy.
I am a happiness junkie. I’ve probably read a half-dozen books that talk about the science of happiness. I love to watch movies like “Happy” and “Finding Joe” and others that talk about finding your bliss. I enjoy listening to motivational speakers who remind me that we have a genetic set point which only makes up about 40%-50% of our total happiness potential. And it’s awesome to review evidence that income or socioeconomic status have very little to do with our sense of life satisfaction. Even with all of this; it is difficult to embrace this concept sometimes. Let’s face it, our culture supports a relentless stream of messages that tell us we need to upgrade, update, buy bigger, buy more, and max out credit cards to earn more rewards.
I am not going to act like I don’t get caught up in this cycle and spend money on things with the idea that it is going to make me happy. The reality, however, is that a trip to the local mall has never provided me with lasting happiness. Taking my dog to the park or going for a 3 mile run has given me the kind of satisfaction that lasts through the next day though. And I have found that random (or even planned) acts of kindness send my general sense of peace and contentment through the roof.
So what makes me happy? I guess I would start with the basics. Watching the sun come up, having great conversations with my friends and family, learning something new, completing goals (sometimes just writing out goals), doing something nice for someone, enjoying nature, becoming inspired by someone’s story, and catching myself in a moment of total bliss….yes, those are a few things that make my heart sing.
Most of this didn’t come as a surprise to me, but the one thing that I continue to explore is how powerful kindness can be in the equation of happy. More and more evidence seems to support that acts of kindness increase our brain plasticity and our sense of well-being. The more I practice this, the more I believe it. No, I’m not turning into a genius or anything (insert laugh here), but I am noticing a shift in my sense of contentment and a lowered height of anxiety during certain interactions. I am also noticing that the more I practice kindness, the easier I am recognizing when I receive kindness. I am amazed how powerful the words ‘thank you’ can be to people who are not used to hearing them. See, kindness doesn’t have to be grand gestures or extensive acts….sometimes it is a matter of exercising patience as someone figures out a new job, smiling at people as you pass by them and telling them “good morning”, or maybe it’s a matter of simply admitting when you are wrong. And of course, the thing that my mother taught me still holds true….”Please and thank you goes a long way”!
Funny how I started out writing about happiness and ended up with a reminder to express gratitude. Ha, this is the kind of stuff that makes my heart sing. Sigh. My thought for today? Take a few minutes to think about what brings that lasting happy and go get it. It’s not that I think we have to fight for happiness, but I do believe we have to pause long enough to be able to see it where it already exists and nurture it within ourselves which ultimately helps promote happiness all around!