So my very analytical husband asks me the other night whether I think happiness is believing you have achieved your goals, or believing that you can achieve them. And although I knew that I thought both of those were wrong, I couldn’t put my finger on what happiness actually means to me. I tried to explain to him why I disagreed with him, only to fumble with my words, and talk myself into confusion. I suppose if you’re going to name a blog something, you might want to know what that thing is to you. So here goes…
It seems to me that in our culture, we like to define happiness by the next milestone. “I’ll be happy when…” is the mantra I lived by for many years. “I’ll be happy when we’re not living in Texas anymore… I’ll be happy when we can buy a house… I’ll be happy when I can buy those gorgeous knee-high boots… I’ll be happy when we have a baby… I’ll be happy when we live near family… I’ll be happy when the baby sleeps through the night…” For other people it might be when they get that new car, when they win the lottery, or when they get a promotion. The trouble with this line of thinking is that there will always be something better.
Does this mean you should never try to be happy…never want for anything? Of course not. If you know what makes you feel happy, do more of that. If you need to make a change, take a chance and do it. But I was spending so much time wondering if I could be happier that I missed out on how good I had it.
The truth is that the happiest people I know spend very little time judging their level of happiness. They aren’t without goals (in fact, they are very motivated people), but their goals don’t define their happiness because they don’t live in the future. Instead, they look for happiness where (and when) they are now. When times are bad, they allow themselves to be sad, but they always seem to find gratitude for the things that are good. They are more open to being happy. They live in the little moments and let the happiness just wash over them. They rarely take good moments for granted.
I feel like I am finally learning how to do just that. I’m finding a balance and learning how to live in the moment. I’m soaking up the good moments – really taking them in. I’ve always loved cooking. But now when I cook, I stop and take a moment to really smell the herbs, or the muffins baking in the oven. When I snuggle Doodlebug before bed, I make sure to breathe in her freshly washed hair and to rub her soft cheeks with my fingers. If I’m going to sit in front of the TV, I make sure it’s a show I will really enjoy. And I sink into the couch with purpose, grabbing a blanket and my favorite snack. And to my surprise, yoga has had a huge impact on my happiness. While I’m no model for poses, I find the time to meditate and just focus on my body leaves me energized and positive. In short, I’m being more mindful.
I still have days where I wake up on the wrong side of the bed – when I want to just throw up my hands in frustration because my diaperbag spilled in the car, I have spaghetti sauce on my shirt, and the muffins burned in the oven. But I have an easier time letting it go. Because when you walk in on your husband playing ukulele songs while your two-year-old feeds a plush moose a giant plastic oreo, that other stuff just doesn’t matter so much.
I can’t wait to hear. What makes you happy? Really happy?