These days, there is a lot of talk about happiness. Everywhere you look. On the Internet. On TV. On billboards. On buses. If you want to be happy... eat this. Don’t eat that. Travel near. Travel far. Sleep more. Sleep less. Save. Spend. Declutter. Collect. Slow down. Stay busy.
After a while, it makes it difficult to answer the fundamental question “Am I happy?” even though we might very well be.
What is happiness anyway? It seems that the first step toward knowing if we are happy is to recognize what happiness is.
It is a simple concept, really. Still, many of us have a difficult time understanding it. And not because we aren’t happy. We very well may be. It is just that we may not realize we are. How could we when continually told how to be happy?
It is no wonder that so many of us are either unaware of our own happiness or altogether confused by it. Or, worse, feeling as if we fall short. In other words, we believe we are failing at being happy, which makes us less happy.
Many of us in our pursuit of happiness lose sight of what it means to feel well, to achieve balance, and be at peace. We look around and think that to be happy, “All I need is…” or “If I could just…” And we miss it. We let happiness escape us, despite it being all around us.
Sometimes it takes a life change such as the loss of a loved one, a divorce, or illness to help us recognize what we have as opposed to what we do not. Other times, it is an “aha” moment during an ordinary day. However awareness occurs, happiness becomes a matter of perception, and no two individuals' views are ever the same or how they came to have them.
There are as many paths to happiness as there are people on the planet. If on our spiritual journey we eventually come to the understanding that being happy is a state of mind, then we should applaud ourselves that we are heading in the right direction. Still, we are not home yet. The next question we should ask is, “Is my path to happiness any better or worse than someone else’s?”
The answer to that must be a resounding no. Although we may feel happy, it is important to give others, whether our family, friends or someone we have recently met, the space they need to find the same for themselves. There exists a fine line between sharing our experiences and preaching to others that our way is the “right” way or the only way. Each one of us has gotten to where we are in life through a unique set of circumstances and experiences, meaning no two individuals’ paths can ever be the same. The trick is to be tolerant of that fact and then respectful of it.
In our present state of happiness, which as we all know can fluctuate at any time, we often want to share what we are feeling with others. We want them to experience all the joy we are but, in the process, manage to quash theirs by being judgmental. That can be frustrating, especially if the person or people we are speaking to are close to us. In an ironic twist of fate, we may become more unhappy as a consequence.
The best way to inspire happiness in others, and become happier ourselves in the process, is, therefore, to lead by example. By sharing our experiences in a storytelling and non-judgmental way, we effectively say to the world, “Hey, it’s possible for you to be happy, too. All you need to do is try.” And since inspiration is contagious, when you touch one life you can touch many.