Appreciating what we have, going for what we want and enjoying the journey there, is the recipe for a happy life.
Life is hard. Life is short. Life is stressful and filled with frustrations, irritations, heartache and the BS of others, whether ongoing and related or the result of casual and arbitrary encounters. We live in our individual bodies and see the word and others through that subjective prism. It colors our perceptions and influences our interactions and reactions to others and to the world in a subjective, selfish way.
But, life is also wondrous and elating, filled with moments of grace and times of love and joy, deep emotions and satisfying relationships with others. The gifts of reason, consideration and compassion allow us to find happiness in ourselves and with others, and be the better for it. Nothing is more satisfying than giving of your time, energy and some of yourself to others and seeing the resulting joy it brings to both.
We live in times of fast change, degrading and out-of-control physical and natural environments and fast disappearing privacy, personal space and dignity. We live in times of growing income inequality, growing issues of safety and security (personal and national), poverty and equality struggles for the many and immense wealth, entitlement and privilege for the few.
But there are many good things happening. We are more equal by gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation than ever before. We live longer and healthier than every before. We enjoy the great benefits and conveniences of amazing advances in technology, science and the growing availability to many of the best of our modern age.
And still, happiness eludes many of us humans, rich or poor and of every nationality, race, ethnicity, orientation and belief. And that brings us back to the subjective nature of being human. That subjective view that gets us bogged down with pride, honor, perceived (or real) slights and the tendency to drown in the “small stuff.”
I say forget “Gratitude.” That word has been coopted and turned into a burden to bare and justify. Instead, find joy in the good “small stuff” every day. You can start with one thing (sunrise, clouds, a good coffee and smile from a friendly barista, a hug from your kid, your dog licking your face…). There are no rules and it can and should be anything that works for you. Try it for a few days and it will soon become a habit (like brushing your teeth), that you don’t have to think about. It will come naturally.
And always remember, don’t sweat the bad “small stuff.” Learn to ignore the small ongoing irritants that turn your pleasant day into a dark and gloomy one (the person in front of you in line taking their time on their cell phone, the person in front of you on the road texting while driving, having to fight the slow when late, rudeness and lack of consideration all around, and the self absorbed all over the countryside). Since death will come too soon for us all, what is the point of stressing over anything, but especially over small insignificant things?
As we gather for our annual Thanksgiving feast with friends and family, we need to take note that life is made up of small moments in a sea of constant change. Enjoy each day. It is the one day given to you today. Cherish and revel in the good moments and relive those feelings during the bad. Appreciation and joy of everyday events (and yes, gratitude), will go a long way towards having a happy and healthy life, and that is after all, what we are all looking for and about. Laughter is absolutely the best medicine and always err, greatly, on the side of more and more silliness.
Video & Photo: Louis Schwartzberg /YouTube