A few weeks ago the world celebrated International Happiness Day. I know, you feel horrible for missing it. Don’t worry…I think the majority of the world had no clue that it even existed.
Over the past few years, I have searched out Facebook groups that provide me with messages of inspiration, optimism and light-hearted thoughts to remind me about what it is that is important in this life and to remind me about what true happiness is.
Some of the postings on Facebook are really shmaltzy, but some are more profound and uplifting.
Anyhow, someone at a local TV news outlet heard about International Happiness Day and decided to do a segment on it for the six o’clock news. I had just come back from my morning spinning class when I heard a message on my voicemail from a videographer asking me if she could ask me some questions about Happiness Day.
I work from home so I figured that other than having to clean up the house a bit and make myself look presentable, “what the hell?”
After she recorded me surfing Facebook on my iPad and pretending to register for this one particular Happiness website, she asked a few questions about what happiness means to me and then was on her way.
I couldn’t wait to tell my wife and kids that their dopey husband and father was going to be on the news later that day. I was going to be famous….NOT!
At six o’clock we switched on the TV in the kitchen while we broke bread together, patiently waiting for my segment to come on. I kept on reminding the kids that sometimes certain stories don’t make it to the broadcast if something more newsworthy happens that particular day.
Sure enough, with ten minutes left in the broadcast, my segment ran. I was on the screen for all of 15 seconds…but there I was. Don’t you just love looking at yourself on camera or hearing your own voice? While I did go to university for radio and television where I heard and saw myself all the time and loathed every minute of it, it had been some time since I saw my face on the little screen. It was a shocker.
What was an even bigger shocker was watching the rest of the segment. The videographer conducted a series of “man-in-the-street” interviews, talking to men and women of varying ages, getting an indication of what makes them happy.
People younger than me were often made happy by buying stuff or going on vacations. One girl was all excited that she was able to buy a dress that she had her eyes on for some time to wear to her prom. She was happy because it had gone on sale.
Elderly people interviewed were happy that they no longer had to get up every morning and go to work. They had time to do other things with their time, like play card games with friends or go for walks.
While I remind myself that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and its “different strokes for different folks”, I was saddened that these are the kinds of things that make us happy.
I was sad to know that people younger than me are happy when they buy shit and older people are happy that they don’t have to work and can play card games.
Is this what being happy means?
I am hopeful that their definitions of what makes them happy shift from moment to moment and consist of things more significant than a deal at Forever 21 or a game of gin rummy.
If I had to really spend mental energy on thinking about what really makes me happy, I would say that first and foremost, my family makes me happy…even when they drive me nuts. My family is something that I created…from scratch. Its mine and no one can take that away from me. My family gives me immense pride and provides me with a warmth that no amount of money in the world can buy.
I am happy that I am upright. I am happy that I am able to get out of bed each and every morning (or sometimes the couch….depending on if I can’t fall asleep or I am relegated to the couch because I am snoring). I am happy that I can take in the natural beauty of the world around me. I am happy that I can feel the sun on my back or the coolness of a rainstorm on my face. I am happy that I have friends who accept me and care for me. I am happy that I have an extended family who is intact and accepts me, warts and all. I am happy that my little family allows me to carve out time for myself…and I am happy that my wife and are able to carve out time for each other (but not nearly enough….a work in progress).
Sure, there are a lot of things I am not happy about…but so what? I can obsess about them and let them consume me. But, what good would that do? There are far too many other things that bring me happiness to think about and appreciate.
Acquiring “stuff” can make you happy for a moment, like the way a burst of sugar sends a kid through the roof after scarfing back a cupcake or a cookie. But, eventually, the sense of euphoria disappears and you return to normal. Its not such a big deal and you realize that you need something else to give you that lift.
It can become pretty expensive, don’t you think?
Hopefully more people will become aware of this global happiness initiative next year. When they do, maybe then they can take a moment to seriously consider what really makes them happy.