A great river of happiness and good fortune will come washing over you and then everything will be great: your family is healthy, your friends like you, your job is going well, your jeans fit, you feel wonderful! All sadness, bad luck and stress have disappeared. So is this all-or-nothing proposition really the way life happens? Sure there are grand moments in life that make us feel joy: a strong marriage, a sweet new baby, a well deserved promotion, an unexpected award, and most of us experience these great thrills at some point in life.
However, think of happiness in a different way, the small moments in daily life when you are feeling valued, loved, appreciated, relaxed or even jubilant. Many years ago I read an article about happiness. I don’t remember the name of the publication or the author but I’ve always remembered the message: happiness is not a constant thing for most people, instead, happiness moves in and out of life in brief moments. Over time, what I have found out is that the trick is to identify those small bits and pieces which really bring joy and incorporate those simple things into daily life, making sure happiness happens.
One of my favorite actors, Diane Keaton is standing in her kitchen, stressing out about her day in the movie Something’s Gotta Give. She turns to her daughter and says: “Alright! I can handle this! I will just get myself in a “Zen” space: play music, cook, write, focus!” It is funny, but also true as she moves into her “Zen” space she identifies the simple moments of her life that make her feel good. She is determined and focused, she is not waiting for an all encompassing happiness to fall into her lap, instead she makes her own happiness.
When my good friend moved to a small fixer-upper in Los Angeles after four wonderful years living in a big yellow colonial in Minnesota she was depressed. Instead of stewing, she quickly identified those small things that made her happy and were unique to LA. She said her favorite things included taking long walks on the bluff overlooking the ocean, shopping at her local and driving her new VW van around town. She said she did these things because they reminded her to be grateful for the opportunity she had to experience an amazing new place. Happiness was within reach and she grabbed it. Simple things, yet so helpful.
When I am hot, tired and hungry, all at the same time, my husband calls it “the triple threat.” Personally, when things aren’t going well, I like a good cheese sandwich: a piece of fresh, crusty whole wheat bread, a slab of sharp cheddar, a slice of crisp red pepper, some lettuce and a dab of mayo. This always cheers me up. I also like a small vase of fresh flowers, especially roses or lavender, on the counter above the kitchen sink. They look great and they smell good, too. I also never underestimate the power of a box of Red Raspberry Dollars and a screening of my current favorite movie: Dan in Real Life with Steve Carell. I am happy when I work out because I get to listen to my favorite music, lately I have been moving to the beat of the Proclaimers. Small bits, silly things really, but things with extraordinary effect.
Everyone experiences heartache and stress in one form or another. You see it on television and on people’s faces, you read about it on your laptop, you hear about it from your friends, you experience some of it everyday. I say ditch it and “follow your bliss.” Joseph Campbell, the writer who coined the phrase said that if you are following your bliss, “you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.” This may require a little self-analysis says Campbell. But, stick with it, focus on a few simple things, take a drive down Main Street and admire the brilliant raspberry blooms on the Crepe Myrtle trees, sip a hot latte on a chilly morning, go horseback riding for the first time in years or call your best friend, invite her to lunch and tell her that her new hair style looks fabulous, making happiness happen even if just a little bit, everyday.