Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cultivating Happiness

I've written before that I'm a planner by nature. This means I spend a great deal of time focusing on the future and how to get to it, and not a whole lot of energy consciously experiencing the present. It has made for a somewhat angsty existence. So, in my effort to spend less of my life frustrated and unhappy and to get to a happier place, I've decided that I'm going to have to cultivate that happiness, however awkward that may be.

Part of me hates the idea that I have to work at happiness. Society tells us that it should not only come naturally, but that it should be our default position. In reality, I don't think that ever actually happens. The most we can expect is general contentedness, with moments of happiness. And really, that's not such a bad deal.

So, I'm cultivating happy moments. When they happen - and yes, they do happen - I am making a point of pausing and noticing them, mentally recording them, and appreciating them for how they add to my days. The moments are varied. There was the laughter-filled afternoon I spent in Fort Worth last week, drinking beers with a good friend and laughing hysterically over inside jokes about river dolphins and cute waiters who are now officially too young for me. It was followed by the next morning's car trip home, during which I blared Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" as loud as I wanted and sang even louder, dancing and driving and appreciating that I have a job that's flexible enough to allow me a few days off pretty much any time I want. This past weekend brought a home-cooked lunch with my best friend, after which we laid on the couch and moaned about how full we were and I thought, "Something as simple as melted cheese for lunch with my best friend is pretty great."

It's not that the substance of my life is changing. These are all things I've done before. I just didn't pause to appreciate them and then file them away in my mental catalog of happy moments. I'm striving to consciously notice one of these moments per day - just one - and I'm already finding that it's changing the way I feel about my life. Instead of constantly looking to the future and plotting a path to that mythical, big-H Happiness, I'm finding happiness in the little things. And for now, that seems to be enough.


CF Winn said...

Thank you.I really needed to hear this right now.I can truly say that you made me so very happy at this moment with just a simple blog post.I am going to take a shower and REALLY feel the happiness that comes with the hot water working the kinks out of my day.And when I brush my teeth, I'm going to revel in how smooth and clean they feel and how fresh my mouth is. Then I'll bring it home with a good book before bed. Thank you. Truly, thank you.

Streetlights94 said...

I think you're right. I think society does tell us that happiness should come easily and I think that's bullshit sometimes. Because the happiness that society sells us isn't real happiness. That's the kind of happiness that it wants us to buy, fake, change ourselves into, etc. That's not "real". It's not intrinsic. I think real happiness is made up of these little things, the simple things like melted cheese, or laughing over something stupid, or even going to sleep knowing nothing disastrous happened that day.

I think that is why happiness can be hard, because we're looking for an explosion when we should be looking for a sparkle.

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