The art of choosing happiness
Lately I have been thinking about the word happy particularly when it’s used in phrases such as “That makes me happy” or “I will be happy when X happens.” Today I read something that made perfect sense to me–true happiness is achieved when we are true to ourselves, authentic and act with integrity. In others words, it’s not about something outside of ourselves to make us happy. Rather, it’s the choices we make on the inside. Oops…was that a spoiler alert for the rest of the blog? Not really.
I still did some research starting with the definition of happy. Simply stated, it’s an adjective defined as the “feeling or showing of pleasure; having a sense of confidence or satisfaction with a person, arrangement or situation. Synonyms are glad, fortunate, joyful, lucky, merry and cheerful. If only it were that simple to be happy…or is it?
A quick Google search reveals that happiness is a popular subject. It’s big business to say the least. There’s a plethora of books, blogs, consultants, coaches, websites and folks from every walk of life offering tips, talks and more on how to be happy. Lots of ideas–many are similar, some are “out there” and definitely no shortage of “this is the answer” approaches. One could get cranky just researching all the resources available on this topic.
In 2009, I loved the TV documentary hosted by actor Michael J. Fox entitled “Adventures of An Incurable Optimist.” It was filmed in Bhutan, a secluded Himalayan nation that stresses the importance of joy in everything it does. Imagine a country which measures its success with a figure for Gross National Happiness (GNH) instead of the Gross National Product (GNP). While conventional development models stress production and economic growth as the ultimate objective, Bhutan’s concept of GNH is based on the premise that a healthy human society exists when material and spiritual growth occur side by side to complement and reinforce each other.
Figured it was time for me to check out Bhutan’s latest Gross National Happiness Index report for 2012. The short guide is 104 pages and the extensive analysis is 217 pages. Quite thorough indeed. The summary states in part that “happiness is multidimensional” and “different people can be happy despite their circumstances.” Didn’t need to read any further. As much as I was enjoying my research on happiness, I knew in my heart what the answer is for me.
If something “makes” me happy, it’s my response to an external prompt such as a person, place, situation, thing or experience. If I want to “be” happy, I can cultivate that feeling from the inside regardless of what’s going on in my life. The way I see it…it comes down to another word—choice. I can choose to “be” happy and I have a choice about “what” makes me happy. Have to admit, just thinking about this “makes me very happy”.