Happiness (Part I)

***This is the first in a series of essays on the topic of happiness, and I’m very excited about it. As I started writing, I realized I had much more to say than could be contained in one post, and I didn’t want to release one long-form essay, since people would tune me out. Okay, enough of that, enjoy****

Happiness is all that matters.

We will all live, and we will all die; those are life’s inevitabilities. The time in between those events, how you spend that time is totally up to you. You can look at life as a struggle, and thus it will be. You can also choose to be happy and upbeat, and I guarantee you that life will be infinitely more enjoyable if you approach it with this mindset. The highs will be higher, and the lows won’t be as devastating. You’ll be so much more resilient if after each setback, you return to being the happy person you were before. It’s about making “Happy” your default setting.

I work in Boston, and rarely do I see people who are overtly happy when I go for my walks. So many people have a vacant look on their face, and others have a look of absolute seriousness, or even a pained expression. Maybe they just want to get home, or they’re working for the weekend, trying to pass the 40+ hours as fast as they can. I can’t say for sure whether or not these people are happy. Maybe they are, but they’re choosing not to show it. Or maybe they’re miserable, and the look on their faces is an accurate reflection of the way they feel inside.

So many people rushing around in hopes of accomplishing as much as they can, but how many people stop and actually think about whether or not they’re enjoying what they’re doing? A friend of mine commented on the changing culture of the workforce. The mindset today is much different than it used to be. He said something like:

“People used to just go to work. Never did they ask themselves if they were happy.”

He’s of a different generation, and as a manager of people, I’m sure he’s a little annoyed that he has to do more work with each individual employee. I get his frustration, but I also think this shift is pretty revolutionary. After all, we spend so much of our lives working, shouldn’t we try and find something we enjoy doing? I know that I always do my best work when I like what I’m working on, and I know I’m not alone. I know that not every company and organization has adopted this approach to employee happiness, but I’d like to think it’ll become a more widespread movement when the results are tabulated.

I like the idea of people being happy. I like the idea of people being happy with the work that they do, and having that happiness spill into all areas of their life. Sure, you can try and compartmentalize, but take it from me: when something in your life isn’t going well, or isn’t to your liking, the longer those conditions persist, the harder it is to keep unhappiness from seeping into all other aspects of your life. You can only keep it at bay for so long, before that unhappiness breaks down the door and forces its way in.

—-

I smile and laugh a lot each day, and while some may think I’m insane, I’ve figured out the way I want to live life going forward. I’ll let you in on a secret: it involves being happy almost all of the time. Happiness shouldn’t have to be something you keep to yourself. It shouldn’t be something that you can only let out in the company of close and trusted friends, it should be something that you can exhibit at all times of the day. Yet, so many people work in places where being an individual and letting your inner happiness shine is frowned upon, or it’s discouraged. I’d like to change that. If you’re truly happy inside, you should be able to show it on the outside.

I’m not sure that life is worth living if you’re not happy. I don’t know how people make it through the days if they’re not. I’ve been one of those people before, and it’s exhausting. I wasn’t happy, and while some days were good, so many of them were a slog to get through. I was going through the motions; just trying to endure all of the things life was throwing at me. I was just passing the time until…until what? Death? Maybe, I don’t know. Maybe I was passing the time until life got better, until things broke in my favor, but now I know that that was a faulty line of thinking. Sure, some of us may be in dire or crazy circumstances or situations, but for so many of us, you don’t need to wait to be happy. As a matter of fact, you can start right now.

It took me so many years before I was truly happy. I’m feeling that way now, and even though my week kicked me in the teeth, I awoke on Saturday morning feeling rested and refreshed. I spend my Friday nights a little differently than I used to. Rather than heading immediately to a bar, I opt for a good workout, some tea, and a good show to binge. It’s a far cry from the wild partying I used to do in college, but I’m all about self-care. I need these nights to myself. There are so many weeks when I feel drained by the time I hit Friday, and this recipe gets me back to neutral. I need a night to myself without distraction, where it’s just me, and whatever I want to do.

You could tell me I’m selfish, and I won’t disagree with you. It is selfish to do the things only you want to do, but I’ve always been of the opinion that you have to take care of yourself before you can help anyone else. Make sure your mask is securely in place before assisting others, even if the bag does not inflate. Focus on happiness, and life will only get better from thereon out. I’m going to ask you to open your mind, and consider living your life a little differently if you’re not happy. Happiness is the end goal, and if I may, I’d like to take you on a bit of a journey. Just make sure your tray is in the upright and locked position.

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