What does happiness mean to you? Has your definition changed over the years?
I was with a friend at the weekend and we got to reminiscing about our school days and talking about what our old class mates were up to now (obviously we only know most of this via Facebook!). We talked about who was married and had children, who had what job and achieved certain things and then my friend said something that struck a chord – when we bump into people from our past, we ask them all these questions about their jobs, families etc but one question that is never asked is – are you happy? Because, as we know, we can edit our lives into the perfect picture of happiness for social media but we never truly know the ins and outs of what the true picture is.
It’s something I have never stood back and asked myself at any point in my life I don’t think. When I was in my late teens and early twenties I had a vision of what ‘happy’ looked like, but that wasn’t for then and there, it was always linked to my future. Moving into my own home, getting married, having children, going on adventurous holidays – all big dreams, big ideals of what happy was going to look like in my life. Now, I don’t dispute for one minute that these things do bring happiness, however, I spent so much time focussing on what my ideal, happy, future looked like, I am almost certain I lost sight of the little things that were happening day-to-day that brought me happiness.
Grand plans are a good thing and of course they bring with them happiness but I do think that sometimes, in striving for them the happiness gets forgotten. All these big things take time and planning and often involve stress and rather than embracing it and reminding ourselves – I’ve just bought a house or I’m planning my wedding, we think about the cost, the time, the little irritating bits and pieces that happen along the way and we focus on them rather than the big picture. We are all prone to it, I am too but I guess I am now more tuned in to the fact that we shouldn’t take these moments for granted. Yes we should have a moan and feel overwhelmed by the big bits but then we need to step back and think, wow I’m so lucky, I’ve worked really hard to achieve XYZ and I should be enjoying this!
I guess this realisation comes as you get older. And sometimes you only get this jolt of reality when something life changing happens to you. Because now, I can’t necessarily plan day-to-day let alone plan for the big chunks of happiness and therefore I find myself taking note of the smaller things, day to day that make me happy. In January, my cousin suggested that every night before we went to sleep, we should write in our phones something from the day that made us happy, no matter how small and then at the end of each month we would swap and read each other happiness diaries. It is so interesting to look back over the past ten months and see the things that have made both of us happy – family and friends feature highly, almost every day this is what we have written about. Not material things or planning for what is coming up. The here and now. Not material things (although bath bombs and bedding features highly!), not things that we have to save up for, the things that surround us every day. Sunsets, camping, dog walking, a funny thing that happened at work, trying out a new recipe and people liking it!
And that’s the difference between my twenties and thirties – planning for future happiness and finding happiness in the here and now. It isn’t always easy because some days are dire but with some practise, I’ve taught myself that in every day there is something good and something that makes you smile – even if it is a chocolate digestive whilst watching Neighbours!
So, your task now is to think of something that has made your day happy, note it down and when you look back at the end of the week, month or year, you’ll find that all those small things add up to a not so gloomy picture.