Come on, get happy

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October 4, 2013 by nooffensebut

Are you happy?

It’s a seemingly simple question.

But think about it. Are you happy? Not: Are you surviving? Or: Are you all right? Or: Would your station in life make you seem vulgar and ungrateful if you complained?

Simply: Are you happy?

I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness lately. It’s not really viewed as enough of a necessity, is it? I feel like we have this attitude that if you’re not in bed surviving on saltines and Capri Sun, washing your hair every three weeks, you’re A-OK.

According to a 2011 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 percent of Americans over age 12 are on antidepressants.

That seems excessive. I feel like “depressed” is probably a term that’s used too liberally these days, like “sexual harassment” or “awesome.”

“Happy” might also be a word that’s used not too liberally, perhaps, but too thoughtlessly.

Suffice to say I do not think admirably of the attitude that we need nothing more than the ability to simply survive the day.

I feel I have the right to think ill of this attitude because it’s one I’m trying to adjust in myself. I also recognize that I’m pretty well set for simple survival. But if you’re taking the time to read this column, you probably are, too.

Oh, sure, there are bigger problems in the world than whiny middle-class Americans being “happy.” Congress doesn’t need to pass laws granting our inalienable right to happiness.

But we can give ourselves permission to pursue it, right? It’s in the Declaration of Independence: Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

But the right is only to seek it, not to have it. We have to find it ourselves.

I’m reading Gretchen Rubin’s book “The Happiness Project.” I’ve only just started, but here’s one thing she establishes right away: She is not someone who, by society’s standards, should be unhappy.

Married with two young daughters, Rubin was living in her favorite city, in the midst of a successful second career, healthy and attractive with close friends and good family ties.

And yet, she writes, she could be happier.

I get that. I have a good job, a loving family, my health, a roof over my head and a man who adores me.

But am I happy? Genuinely happy?

Honestly? Not as often as I’d like to be.

I suspect a lot of you probably feel the same way. And you know who’s probably to blame?

We are.

So I’ve been thinking about what I can do to change that. What small things, in my day-to-day life, can I do to make me feel more satisfied? How do I need to adjust my perspective, my routine, my surroundings?

Oh, I’m not looking to become Pollyanna Sunshine. I kind of like my snark, and besides, I’m not looking to change who I am. I’m just seeking to feel a little better.

What about you? What can you do to increase your own happiness? Or, looking at it from another way, what are you doing that is getting in the way of your happiness?

I’ll go first. I have a tendency to want to change the past. I do a lot of “if I’d done XYZ at point 123, I could be doing ABC now.” And it’s a waste of time because, drum roll please, you can’t change the past.

So that’s No. 1 on the list of how I get in the way of my own happiness.

What’s on your list? You don’t have to tell me, just think about it for yourself. But if you want to share, please do.

Originally published Sept. 28, 2012 in the Chattanooga Times Free Press

Reader responses:

Good Morning Holly,
   Let me start by saying I’m a 70 year old retired man who has enough time in the morning to read the paper and your column (when my wife isn’t hogging the puzzle section).  I find your columns to be intelligently and interestingly written.  Thanks.
   You didn’t exactly ask for your readers to respond but you did allow it.  And though I don’t normally respond in situations like this, I thought I would like to interact on this subject with you.
   To give you some idea of my perspective, I will confess to being a Christian.  A couple of days ago I read Psalm 100:1 which says: “Shout for joy to the Lord all the earth”.  I’ve been thinking about that, realizing I don’t shout that much and that I don’t usually have enough joy to generate a shout. When I read your article, it occurred to me that you were writing about something closely related to what I have been thinking about.  I’ve heard people making a point out of distinguishing between joy and happiness. But I suspect they are more closely related than sometimes we think.  I think I am the happiest when I’m filled with joy.  And joy comes when I realize with excitement that things are as they should be.  (Note: I think of joy and peace as closely related states of mind.  peace being joy at rest and joy being peace excited.)  As I reflect, I think I’m probably more joyful (or peaceful) when I’m conscious of giving God His due.  When I’m not giving Him His due, things seem rather scewed, out of balance: not as they should be. Other relationships and situations need to be in order too, of course.  But God should surely have the preeminent place in all the things that make up my life.  Being able to shout for joy to the Lord, makes it easier to shout for joy for other things.
    I’m still thinking about Psalm 100:1 and using it as a measuring stick for my own life.  I haven’t attained that standard, not be a long shot.  But I aspire to it. 
    Thanks for allowing comments.  Keep up the good work.
Daryl S

I read your column almost every Friday. Enjoy your thoughts about life.                 This week, you said that you have a good job, loving family, your health, a roof over your head and a man who adores you. You are blessed.  I also have all you have (I am retired) except a man who adores me.  How do get to be adored?                                                            I am a widow of 7 years.  Now, I am in the Positive Christian Singles group.  I have many friends–Men and women who love me.  We have a great friendship relationship!     But I have not had a man “adore” me since my husband went to Heaven. I have prayed about it, but I have given up. I have several single girl friends, who do have any man to adore them.     But, I am very thankful for my wonderful friends.                                      Just want you to know that you are very fortunate to be adored. Thank God every day for this blessing!!                               Your Reading Fan,  Susie S.


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