by Moira Cue
Pop quiz: How many songs do you know about a broken heart? If I take a moment to think about it, the list is long. But when I think of songs about happiness, I think of Pharrell Williams’ “Happy,” Bob Marley’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” and Lilly Allen’s “Smile.” Then I look at the lyrics of all three songs, two of which cover poverty and infidelity, and I have to cross all but “Happy” off the list.
Happiness is an essential, and often overlooked component, of our mental as well as physical health. Last week, in a personal development class with Dr. Alison Plaut, author of Be More (subtitled 18 practical steps for more peace, success, and happiness in YOUR life…beginning today!) we did a deep dive into our own understanding of, and commitment to, happiness. We ended the class with an exercise in which we were asked to ponder what steps we would take this week, this month, and this year to create more fortunate circumstances, more happiness, and more success.
I got so far as step one: define more fortunate circumstances, define more happiness, and define more success, for me. And then Esther/Abraham Hicks’ voice popped into my head, saying the best way to get MORE of a certain thing is to take a moment to LOOK AT WAYS IN WHICH YOU ALREADY HAVE IT. And when in doubt, I think they would tell us: go general. So here’s a general list. Perhaps it will help you to think of ways in which you are blessed, blissed, and successful.
I am fortunate. To have food when I am hungry. To have clean water at the turn of a knob. To have heat and electricity. To live in a country that recognizes human rights, wherein our leaders are elected rather than appointed. To have freedom of speech. To have all my arms and legs, my hearing, and my sight. To still be (relatively) young. To have stable and consistent intimate partnership and domestic tranquility. That my parents are still married, and still alive. That my brothers have children I am an aunt to. To live on a tree-lined street. To live in California, where it rarely gets below freezing. To have a great pet cat. To have Internet access. To feel connected to the divine. To have access to the best herbal supplements in the world. To live in Los Angeles, where there are great art museums that are free and open to the public. To live near the forest. To have friendly neighbors.
I am happy. I am aware that deep inside me there is an unbounded source of happiness that I can connect to anytime through Transcendental Meditation, or just remembering that it is there. Of course I still experience disappointment, irritation, and other negative emotions such as anger, judgment, and criticism. But I know that these feelings are part of my “emotional guidance system” and, more importantly, that in the Deep Self, my joi de vivre is deeper than any pain or suffering I’ve experienced. I get a kick out of life.
And, as much as it embarrasses me to admit (I was taught that bragging is a bad thing, and unfeminine to boot) I am successful. And because in the past I’ve tied myself up in knots over things that didn’t turn out according to plan, I’ll use Earl Nightingale’s general definition of success: Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal or ideal. The progressive realization, of course, depends on continual pursuit. I can’t say I’ve never given up. But I can say, I’ve never given up for good.
What about you? The fact that you are alive, and reading this, tells me that you, too, have not given up. You are choosing every day to keep going. Even if that’s the best you can do on any given day, you’re still in the game.
Dr. Plaut tells us there are times we can pretend to be happy, but we don’t have to. In deep grief for example, we need to feel what we feel in a natural way and go through the process. But when we CAN make a choice between happiness or something else, let’s commit, together, to choose happiness.