“Are you happy?” is a question that is often used to gauge where someone is in life.
The various states of the person’s bank account, weight, or relationship status determines the answer.
Sometimes, we even lie a little and say we are, even when we know we aren’t.
When we have kids, we say all we want is for them to be happy.
But happy is such a subjective term.
What made me happy when I was 6 is totally different than what makes me happy at 46.
Well, maybe it’s not that much different; a hot fudge sundae or chocolate bar can still make me happy, just not to the degree that it did 40 years ago.
Now I think of the impact on my blood sugar and worry if it is going to make me gain weight.
The six-year-old me didn’t worry about those things.
As an adult, perceptions about what makes one happy change and are harder to define, mainly because we forget happiness is a choice.
We think we have to have the perfect job, the perfect home, the perfect relationship before we are happy.
If there is anything off the slightest with any of those, or anything for that matter, we tend to think things are bleak, horrible, and devoid of any happiness.
Unlike that younger self that finds happiness in a new box of crayons, we find it hard to find joy in the simple things anymore.
But it is really just a trap and we have somehow fallen for it.
We get caught up in chasing the next big thing that is supposed to make us happy and fail to see what’s wonderful right in front of us.
I am horribly guilty of doing just this.
Instead of focusing on what I could be happy about, I focus on what is wrong or what is lacking.
It robs me of the joy that can be found in ordinary things.
It’s like looking at a beautiful garden, where instead of looking at the flowers, we focus on the weeds.
And here’s the thing – happiness is a choice.
By choosing to focus on the things that are not perfect, we tend to miss the things that are good.
I see the weeds too often, when I shouldn’t.
Life has a way of sometimes just kicking our tater; it does that to everyone.
But those that can choose to be happy regardless of their circumstances are the ones who are kind of winning at this game.
The people that choose to find the good in every situation, no matter what happens, tend to bounce back a little bit quicker. Or at least they seem to be able to make lemonade out of the lemons.
Maybe it is because they have stored memories of things that were happy and know they can find those things again. They banked those good moments when they were happening, so they could remind themselves of them later.
What if it is hard to find those memories of something good to draw from?
By deciding to focus on what we have right now, like the fresh box of crayons.
Or the flowers in the garden, or puppy’s breathe.
We choose to see -- and remember -- the things that made our hearts smile, even briefly.
We may just find that a lot of these are within us, the experiences we had, and the simple moments we found joy and laughter. It’s not really the material things, or something we can necessarily chase after that we find our happiness, but more of the things money can’t buy.
By focusing on those, we can choose to be happy.
And with that, maybe we can be free of the trap.