I’ve been over-analyzing and complicating the concept of happiness for…let’s see….FOREVER. In the past I’d get bored with my life and want a rush of excitement, which usually resulted in drastic changes in my life. I would constantly tell myself, “when (insert life event) happens, I’ll be happier.” Then it would happen, and I would get a temporary life high, but inevitably something would occur to bring me back down to square one. I’d keep searching for another high, but the lasting feeling of happiness never came.
Over the last couple of months my perspective of life has changed though. Between healing from a major loss, lessons learned through life coaching, strengthening some of my existing friendships, and meeting a great guy, I’ve discovered what it means to be content and grateful. Then yesterday, while sitting in the dentist chair with half of my face numb, I turned on a documentary on Netflix called Happy (yes, I get to watch Netflix at the dentist…be jealous). This film was pretty great. It followed people from all walks of life from around the world, asking them if they consider themselves to be happy. What was amazing was that some of the poorest people financially were the happiest. They lead very modest lives, have very few belongings and work jobs that we might consider “demeaning.” Yet, they are happy because they have their basic needs met, surround themselves with loved ones and are grateful for what they do have, not dwelling on what they don’t.
It’s not a coincidence that some of the happiest people in the world live in some of the poorest countries in the world. When you have less, you cherish it more. As long as your basic needs are met, happiness doesn’t increase with the more material items you have. In our first-world culture, we are constantly looking for more, never quite satisfied with what we currently have. We’re standing in line for the latest iPhone, camping outside on Black Friday to get a slightly larger TV, working our asses off to advance in our careers, buying expensive cars and houses, swiping to find the “perfect” mate, adding the best brands to our closets, all in the hopes that it adds to our happiness. But it often doesn’t in the long run. In fact, the more we have, the more we usually want.
So what if we were just happy with what we already had? What if we stopped searching for the next source of happiness and found gratitude for the amazing things that currently exist in our lives? Things we take for granted, like laughing with family and friends, going on a nature hike, eating a comforting meal, sleeping in a warm bed, and waking up to another day in this crazy, exhilarating world. If we stop placing our happiness outside of ourselves as something to attain, and find where it already lies within us, we can beam it out to the rest of the world. And happiness is contagious, so the more you tap into it, the more others will see it and want it for themselves too. You can be a model for true and pure joy.
Keep happiness simple. If you want to change parts of your life, change them. If something causes you stress, rid it from your life. If it doesn’t, be grateful for it. Don’t go searching for happiness outside of yourself, but rather let it come to you and just add it to your little bubble of existing happiness. You won’t feel the need to fill your life with meaningless things because there won’t be room for them anymore. Your possessions won’t matter when you’re on your death bed; you can’t take them with you. Experiences are what matter most. Don’t take life so seriously. In fact, take risks! The more we forget about the stresses of life, the more we can enjoy it. We’re here for about a millisecond in the grand scheme of things. Be content to just live and see what happens in this little playground of life. It really doesn’t have to be that complicated.