Thursday, January 03, 2008

Are you happy?

Maybe it's because we're at the beginning of a new year and people are all optimistic, but I seem to be hearing a lot about happiness.

I've heard radio shows and read articles about the benefits of stress reduction (after all, 'twas the season), but it's more than that. I listened to interviews with the authors of three books in particular: "Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia" by Elizabeth Gilbert (she spent a year soul-searching and self-discovering after a bitter divorce); "Helping Me Help Myself: One Skeptic, Ten Self-Help Gurus, and a Year on the Brink of the Comfort Zone" by Beth Lisick (she spent a year trying self-improvement methods, including Buddist monks and Richard Simmons); and "The Geography of Bliss" by Eric Weiner (the "self-described grump" spent a year traveling the world in search of happy places).

The one thing I took from all those interviews is that striving for happiness is a sure way NOT to achieve it. Happiness is a state of being -- it just is -- not a destination. Sure, where you live might play a part (according to Weiner the happiest places aren't tropical paradises like Hawaii or Tahiti or Bali, but the wintery wonderlands of Iceland, Finland and Switzerland), but by no means does your location guarantee contentment. Nor does a healthy collection of stuff -- houses, cars, designer clothes, jewelry. Happiness comes from within.

Ask yourself right now: "Am I happy?" Is your answer an enthusiastic "Yes!" or are you like me, unsure if you even know what true happiness feels like?

One thing's for sure: where you are psychically affects all of your relationships. So if you're not one of the lucky ones who consider themselves happy, maybe the key is to not strive for happiness, but to simply allow yourself to be open to its existence.


TXGirl said...

Happiness is not something that just comes to you from some outside source. It is something you choose to do. Just like choosing to love your spouse when they are unlovable, or blooming where you are planted. Relying on someone else or waiting for it to just happen is not going to get the results you want.

Southern Belle said...

realizing that you are responsible for your own happiness can sometimes be easier said than done. Logically I know that it is my responsibility but emotionally I always expect other people to make me happy, whether it's my spouse, my son or even my friends. I know that this is not a healthy attitude, but it comes from years of low self esteem that I am still working through. It's hard and a lot easier to blame others for my own shortcomings. Recognizing that you do this is a positive step so I have been told. I am hoping that someday I will accept it and reach that place where I am happy with myself.