I do not mean are you happy all of the time, for no one is. Are you happy in general? Do you look forward to each new day, and each experience? Are you satisfied with your life? Or are you waiting for something to happen to be happy, whether it be a vacation, retirement, or something else external? If so, it may be time to rethink happiness and decide to be happy now.
It is time to be happy now, regardless, like Jane, a past America’s Got Talent contestant who was featured on the show this week. This show featured past contestants who had made the most impact on the judges. Jane auditioned when she was dealing with Cancer, and stated, “You can’t wait until life is easy to decide that you are going to be happy.” Jane has since died. Jane’s perspective changes something I have often said, “At least it isn’t Cancer.” When facing problems, I have recognized that whatever was happening was not as bad as it could be, by stating, “At least it isn’t Cancer.” Jane’s comment required me to reframe that thinking. Jane had decided to be happy even with Cancer. Had she waited to be happy until she was cancer-free, she would have missed a lot of life. Jane’s example is a powerful one.
I am reminded of the quote, “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” This quote has been attributed to President Abraham Lincoln, who had many problems in life. He obviously also had success as well as hardship, neither of which made him happy or unhappy. Happiness is not determined by external circumstances. Happiness is a decision, one that we make every day, in every situation. We choose to be happy, or not, regardless.
We had a minister, Rev. Elizabeth Burgess, speak to our church in May. Rev. Burgess decided to become a missionary late in life, and has served in Ukraine as well as other areas, and is still serving, although she is the age that many choose to be retired. Rev. Burgess said, “If you’re not dead, you’re not done!” Too many people have a different life than Rev. Burgess, serving only themselves and their own interests. Some retire and spend their days only in leisurely pursuits, sitting too much, drinking too much, and eating too much. While retirement can be an important and well-earned stage of life, those who retire and (only) have a sedentary lifestyle are missing out on aspects of life that are necessary for happiness.
What does the research tell us about happiness? First, those who help others, who get outside of themselves, are the happiest. Having a spirit of gratitude helps us to be happy. That money does not result in happiness once our basic needs are met. Eating well, staying physically active, and getting enough good sleep help us to feel happy. Spending time in nature can give us a feeling of peace that equates to happiness. Finding a creative outlet can help one feel happier. That being with people who are a positive influence is a necessary component of happiness. That finding meaning in life is important as long as we have breath. That while leisure can be pleasurable, it does not create happiness. That happiness comes from within.
Are you happy? Are most of your days spent being active, helping others, and finding meaning in life? If not, what can you do to change that? What will you do to change that?