I envy people who exist in a constant state of happiness. The ones who get up with a positive outlook each day, and can always see the good side of everything.
That’s not me.
I used to think it was because there was something wrong with me; some flaw that I was born with that made me less happy than the average person. Then, several years ago I was watching The Perks of Being a Wallflower with my youngest, and I heard this line, “So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.” I felt like doing a fist pump at the universe and yelling out, “YES! THAT’S ME TOO!”
Several weeks ago I was invited to help an author friend launch a book she has being published in August, called The Happiness Dare. Jennifer Dukes Lee first began promoting the idea of searching for happiness in the midst of struggle and everyday things several months ago while her dad was having surgery. She shared with us what an inspiration her dad was, and how he kept a positive attitude in the face of fear and uncertainty.
Right after I accepted her invitation, my Grampa died. After God and my husband, my Grampa was the most important man in my life, and his loss has been devastating. As I have navigated my way through the past two weeks of grief and saying goodbye, one thing has been made clear to me: my Grampa was a man who radiated happiness.
In the introduction to her book, Jennifer writes, “Science tells us that people are born with a “happiness set point.” That baseline is written into our genes. Some of us start with higher set points than others. If something good happens, our happiness rises. If something awful happens, our happiness plummets. But after a while, our mood generally inches its way back to our personal genetic set point” (p.IX).
My Grampa had a high happiness set point, which was made clear in the conversations had, the Facebook messages shared, and the stories and memories told after his passing. The priest at his church told us that each week, as the members of his congregation leave he tells them, “God bless you”, and my Grampa always answered with, “He already has.”
This is the kind of happiness that I strive for in my life, but unlike my Grampa, I don’t have a high happiness set point. I don’t know if is genetic, or was formed by circumstances in my early years. What I am learning by reading Jennifer’s book, is that there are ways to practice happiness.
I used to think that joy and gratitude went hand-in-hand with happiness. Which is not saying that they do not. I believe that being grateful can lead to happiness, but I thought they were the same thing. I make it a habit to count my blessings daily, and even keep a gratitude journal. What I have discovered, however, is that joy and gratitude are separate from happiness. In fact, psychologists say that happiness is external, and joy is spiritual, which is a conversation for a whole different post. The point is, we all have control over our happiness.
Today, I dare you to take a self-inventory of what makes you happy. Get honest with yourself and think of all the important times in your life, and reflect on how happy (or unhappy) you were. Then, cozy up somewhere with a refreshing beverage, and make a list of what makes you happy. Start with ten things, then see if you can’t keep going.
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