Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Happiness: Get There Today

For most of my life, I thought I would find happiness when I found love. I thought when I got married to the right man, everything would fall into place and all would be well in the world.

But after I returned from my honeymoon last year, I discovered that settling into happiness in one area of your life often just opens you up to another spot in need of tending. With the excitement of the wedding over, and no more trips abroad to look forward to, I found myself feeling restless, wanting to change up my career in some way.

It was almost like I had checked one thing off my to-do list and was just moving on to the next.

Happiness should never be a to-do list. 

I read an article in O Magazine recently wherein Deepak Chopra shared this story:

"As a doctor, I used to ask my patients, 'Why do you want to get well?' They'd say they wanted to be rid of illness. 'Why do you want to be rid of the illness?' Oh so I can go back to work. 'Why do you want to go to work?' So I can pay my bills. 'Why do you want to do that?' Then finally they'd say 'Shut up—all I want to do is be happy!' I say why not start with happiness? Why go about it in such a circuitous way?" - Deepak Chopra, 6/2012

We're always looking for that next thing that will lead us to happiness, aren't we? 

Instead of finding happiness in the current moment, we think, "Oh I'll feel good when X happens." Or, "I'll be able to enjoy life when I cross Y off my list."

Life is too short, my friends. Some of us will run out of time before we make it to that next item on our to-do lists.

As many of my favorite spiritual thought leaders have suggested, one of the simplest ways to focus on happiness is to look at your life with gratitude. Identify the things that deserve thanks. And a great way to shine the light on these things is to start a gratitude journal. Every day, you'll be reminded of happy moments, memories and feelings. The reasons you are blessed. The reasons you are fortunate during your time on this earth.

I started keeping a journal again—it's not the first time I've had one—in those weeks after my honeymoon. And it certainly helped.

After awhile, the identification of good things becomes second nature. The happiness comes without trying.

And that in itself is a source of great joy.


  1. I mostly agree with you. I agree that we should recognize the things and people and gestures that make us grateful. But, just because you have small things in your life that you're grateful for doesn't always translate to being happy. Sometimes, there are bigger things going on in someone's life that lead to unhappiness.

  2. Nilsa, you're absolutely right. A gratitude journal can't change a mindset that is mired in an unhealthy or unhappy situation day in and day out. I was more meaning to touch on the point that happiness isn't a checklist.

    However, even sometimes when bigger, ickier things are going on in our lives, focusing on the tiny joys can make us feel better. At least they seem to help me.

  3. I think a lot of people also use "When I am able to buy x, then I'll be happy." Insert car, house, clothes or whatever. It's a vicious circle that just keeps going. Buying stuff for sure won't make you happy.

  4. Totally. "Things" can give that immediate rush, but it never seems to last. Which is why you always have to go buy the next thing...