Does happiness cost money? Is it expensive?
Are peace of mind and personal serenity budget busters? Are the famous and wealthy happier than the rest of us? Have you ever thought about happiness that way? Should you?
Pleasure can cost dearly if sought in far away places or addicting drugs. However, is a sunset in Hawaii more beautiful than a sunset over a local river? Can drugs surpass the uplifting feeling caused by an hour's run or power walk?
Isn't happiness an internal perception? Don't we individually decide whether we are happy and when we will be happy? Can anyone make us happy or sad without our permission? If we make an external event or person the criteria for happiness, don't we set ourselves up for possible disappointment?
So many questions. Let's think about some answers.
When considering happiness, I strongly suggest that we go to the experts for guidance: children.
What do they need for happiness? A smile, a hug, a nuzzle or silly face does very well, doesn't it? If we allow ourselves to enjoy simple pleasures, wouldn't these be sources of joy for us too? A child makes noise and is happy with a wooden spoon and a pan. A cardboard box, the bigger, the better, becomes a fort or space ship. They are off and they are happy!
Having someone to listen to them and take them seriously makes children feel special, important and satisfied. Having someone to play with for an activity they enjoy makes time fly: "Dinner already? Aww, mom!"
Taking our cues from children shows us that simplicity, involvement with others we enjoy, working or playing on projects of interest bring happiness. Unless we make it part of the rules, money has little or nothing to do with happiness.
Certainly making a long-awaited trip or pilgrimage can add to happiness.
However, if we tell ourselves we will be happy when we make the trip or we will be happy when we make so much money or when we meet a certain person, we deprive ourselves of the ability to be happy right now.
So, from this moment on, accept happiness, expect happiness. Find it in little acts, and unusual moments. Find it everywhere. See it in everything you do. Widen your horizons in your everyday life. Dwell on what you enjoy. Spend little or no time on what you find unpleasant.
Take your example from the children.
If you want to become a heavyweight champion of happiness, do this: "If you cannot do what you love, learn to love what you do."
Accept that you are responsible for your attitude. Then, train yourself to enjoy even the menial and boring. Allow yourself to be consciously happy more often. It will become a habit.
Tim O'Brien writes continuing-education courses and presents seminars on stress management.