What makes you happy?
No, it’s not a trick question. I’m serious. Sit down. Close your eyes and think about it for a few minutes.
Now, answer the question: What makes you happy?
The answer, of course, will differ for everyone. The things, experiences, even people that bring us joy are as varied as we are. Maybe you said your family or friends make you happy. Maybe it’s seeing your grandchildren’s faces on the computer screen when you Skype with them. Maybe you said ice cream makes you happy or a walk on the beach or shopping or your dog. Maybe you said that kindness and compassion make you happy. Maybe it’s the smell of cookies baking or your Grandmother’s pot roast on a Sunday afternoon.
No matter what your answer, it’s a good one.
Let’s keep going. I’m out on a limb here, but my suspicion is that you – like most people – listed outside sources for your happiness. Am I right? But did you think of anything within yourself or anything about yourself that makes you happy?
My Grandfather was a very wise man. He often told us that people are only about as happy as they allow themselves to be. I don’t think the sentiment was entirely his – the idea is often attributed to Abraham Lincoln, but I’m pretty sure that’s not entirely accurate, either. The source is irrelevant. What matters is the philosophy behind it – the idea that we control our own happiness.
My focus rests mainly on the idea of self-compassion. My thoughts for you this month are no different; rather than looking outside yourself for happiness, find it within. Treat yourself with the kindness and compassion you deserve and choose happiness for yourself.
Acknowledge your gifts, your strengths, your abilities. Embrace your struggles and your weaknesses and find acceptance in the lessons you have learned from them. You decide to what degree the stuff of life will affect you and how it will affect you. You can choose to be unhappy, or you can choose to be happy.
I’ve spent enough of my days being unhappy. For various reasons, at various points in my life, I have experienced unhappiness. Some of it is natural, like the death of a loved one; some of it is very unnatural, like having a car accident or losing a job. But no matter what circumstance life hands us, we ultimately have to choose what to do with it. We can choose to be unhappy, or we can choose to be happy.
Some people are going to argue with me. That’s OK. They argued with my Grandfather, too. Some things are just objectively awful, you say? There is no positive to be found? Perhaps you’re right. I suppose that judgment is ultimately up to us as individuals as well. My tragedy and yours are not the same; my joy and yours are not the same. It is certainly not easy to choose happiness when sadness seems so readily available. Being miserable is so much easier, isn’t it?
I realize I am at dangerous risk of sounding like a Pollyanna (and if you know me even a little bit, you know that is absolutely not me at all), but I have found that it is possible to choose the positive approach. It is possible to see the best possible angle of any situation. There are practices and habits we can develop to enable us to see that happiness.
But at the very least, let’s remember why we are all here – at least on this day each month and at least today. We are here to focus on the good and the positive. Compassion. Happiness. Love. And as I say to myself and to you over and over again – compassion and happiness begins with self love and compassion.
It’s out there. I promise you. But no one is going to hand you a pile of happiness. You have to do it for yourself. Sure, it’s hard. Most things of true value require at least a little effort – and more likely a lot of effort. But is your personal happiness – true happiness from within – worth it?
Of course, it is. And so I offer you the challenge of finding happiness that comes from within your Self. Go ahead and think about it for a while. Take all the time your need, but do it. And see how much brighter the world looks when you see it from the perspective of a happiness that comes from you.
I dare you. Choose happiness.
This post was previously published on The Meaning of Me.
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