When you think of happiness, what comes to mind?
I used to have quite a limited view of happiness. I used to think that happiness meant lying on the beach, reading a book, having a massage, swimming in the ocean or enjoying a night out with good food and dancing. Don’t get me wrong. These things are great. It’s just that they all involve an escape from real, day-to-day life. They all involve me being completely insulated from the world.
I’ve decided to reconstruct my sense of happiness to let more real life into it.
All of us tell stories to ourselves and others about what makes us happy. And often, our reality makes us unhappy and our escapes make us happy. We say that the traffic was terrible (I was unhappy), work was stressful (I was unhappy), but I booked a holiday for later in the year (I am happy!).
We are conditioned by the hyper-culture (media and social media, advertising and art) to desire certain things. We are constantly exposed to well-crafted images in magazines and movies that create a fantasy sense of happiness. When our outer circumstances do not reflect these fantasy stories about happiness and worldly desires, we declare ourselves to be unhappy, or bored, or ordinary, and we blame it on our circumstances.
Here’s the magic: relying on our outer circumstances to make us happy is like relying on the weather to make us happy.
We need to have a broader sense of happiness. We need a sunny version of happiness and a stormy version of happiness. We need a story of happiness that involves a relaxed night out with friends, and a story of happiness that involves 5am wake-ups surrounded by lego. An expanded story of happiness sits in a hospital room with a loved one because we care so deeply that our heart swells. It cleans spilt milk off the kitchen floor with a smile because that is what life is asking of us in that moment. It starts a new business with hope, excitement and many, many hours. It dances gleefully with friends at a party and is filled with joy. It turns up to work day after day with a positive & grateful attitude. It runs back into the house because we forgot the phone.
This expanded story allows more room for happiness to exist. It involves the ideal and the real, the perfect and the imperfect, the bliss and the chaos, the day-to-day and the escape. It widens the happiness lens to take in more of our life experience. It really is a wonderful world.