Happiness. We all seek it. Our constitution guarantees the pursuit of it, and in my opinion, God and the universe hope that we all find it. But how do we? Is it possible?
As we begin a new year, examine our lives, and hope to get more out of each day, let’s apply this test to choices we make. Our actions are much more likely to bring us happiness if:
Our actions are enjoyable - our choices feel good in the moment, but they have perspective and the possibility for sustainability.
Our actions are meaningful - not only to they bring us pleasure, but they have depth, and are positive for others.
Our activities bring us a sense of satisfaction - not just in the moment, but for the long term.
As examples of life choices that bring us all three of these: the “right” occupation or profession for us; the “right” long term relationship/partnership/marriage for us; and a spiritual life that is “right” for us.
For example, activity/exercise that brings us all three components of happiness - enjoyment, meaning and satisfaction - is much more likely to be sustainable over the long term.
But there is one more concept to consider. Life will pitch us occasional curve balls. We will experience disappointments and even tragedies. Should we try to avoid life’s challenges in order to be happy? On the contrary, we should lean into them, experience them head on, and hope to get to the other side intact. Also, we should be aware of the positives within our disappointments. If we do, we will gain wisdom, become resilient, and gain appreciation for the positives aspects of our lives.
Optimists, those folks who see the glass as “half full” are much more likely to be happy, because they are capable of finding light in the midst of darkness. Pessimists, those who catastrophize in the face of life’s disappointments, are more likely to be unhappy with their lives.
We spent Christmas and New Year’s eve with our Ukrainian friends who lived through a year that began with war, bombings, seeking asylum and facing life as refugees in a new country, with a new language and completely new culture. As we left their apartment, as the new year began, filled with hope and optimism in the face of extraordinary life challenges for his family, Valery, the family’s father said to us, reading from Google translate on his phone, “You are good friends, and we are grateful for fate bringing us together. Happy New Year to us all!”
Light always defeats the darkness, and if we look for it even in the most unlikely places, happiness will prevail!
Dr. John Monaco