A few nights ago, I watched the movie Hector and The Search For Happiness. If you haven’t yet seen it I suggest you do. The basic premise is we are introduced to a young psychiatrist named Hector who travels the world to find out what makes people happy. This has me thinking about my own happiness. What makes me happy?
Happiness seemed fleeting pre-cancer. As I have chronicled here previously I had terrible depression. Post-cancer my view on life and my heart are totally different. I have noticed I connect with people so easily now. In a way I never did before. I see now we are all connected and I feel this agape type love for people. I no longer lament being single because I feel so fulfilled by this love.
I think my own happiness list would look a little something like this…
1. Compare yourself to no one.
I turned 36 this year. In the months leading up to my birthday I felt a panic at getting closer to 40. I would look around and see 36 year old’s with careers further along than mine, who have more money than I do, people who have PhD’s, mortgages, marriages and children. I felt anxious thinking that I wasn’t enough. That my value was tied to these status markers. Luckily I got over that. You cannot take money with you to the grave and studies actually show that once you make over $75,000 your happiness doesn’t improve any more. I am rich in meaningful life experiences. I don’t know what my future holds, but today I can be satisfied with who I am and the being I am becoming.
2. Happiness lies in surprises – and the timing is no accident.
A few months ago I made a new friend at work. During that time I was grappling with worsening depression. One day, when I was feeling particularly down I walked across the Golden Gate Bridge into Sausalito and into a cafe. On a day I was feeling alone and lonely, I looked up and who do I see? My new friend. She saw me too and we ended up spending the day together and it was truly a wonderful day. I believe there is a method to the madness of the universe. We may not always get what we want, but we get what we need.
3. Live mindfully in the present.
Ever since I have healed from cancer, I truly live in the moment. I don’t really care to plan my future because the future is not promised to any of us. My cancer diagnosis taught me that with amazing clarity. I do live fully in the moment however and I am determined not to miss all the beauty around me because I am lamenting past mistakes or fantasizing about future possibilities.
4. Connecting with other living beings.
I usually feel most at peace and the most happy when I am engaged and listening to people’s stories I find. I truly love learning about people’s lives and what has brought them to their present state. My heart breaks for them at times, and at others it soars. Feeling included and a part of the rest of the world is utterly important.
5. Happiness is answering your souls calling.
For a long time I did work that paid the bills, but did not satisfy me. I have always enjoyed counseling people. In my younger years I decided against pursuing a psychology degree because I had always heard you need a PhD to counsel people. I have almost no formal education and I am quite good at it. This isn’t to say we ever stop learning. In fact…
6. Always keep learning. Always challenge yourself.
As someone who loves to learn, I enjoy school. Not all subjects of course, but I am constantly amazed at how much knowledge there is in this universe and awed that I will never know it all. But I can focus on the things I enjoy and learn them. I can push myself to be a better therapist by working on myself and observing others.
7. Selflessness is everything.
When you give of yourself you will never want for anything. I get a sublime feeling of happiness upon performing a good deed. I often joke that I am addicted to public service. What you receive in return is priceless.
8. Happiness is knowing how to celebrate.
One of the qualities I love about New Orleans is their ability to celebrate. To dance in the streets and call strangers new friends. To listen to great music, eat delicious food and see beautiful images before you. Life is about celebration. Every moment we are alive and here is reason enough.
9. Happiness is being loved for exactly who you are.
In my life, I have often felt nobody would ever truly love all of me completely. I have this persistent nagging feeling that surrounds romantic love and there is a part of me that cannot imagine someone loving me just as I am – imperfections and all. There are billions of people on this earth though and I trust enough in the universe that my bashert will come into my life when it is time and we will accept one another just as we are.
10. Happiness is feeling useful.
No one wants to be a burden on others. We all have qualities that make us special and unique. We all have talents. Try to see the talents in others and encourage them, no matter how small.
What would your happiness list look like?