We talk a lot about happiness. Books like Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project” are bestsellers for a reason. We all want to feel happy and we all want to figure out how.
So… do you know what makes you happy?
If you ask that question to a smattering of people, you’ll likely get a few laughing responses of, “Winning the lottery would make me happy!” But we all know it’s not unimaginable wealth that will bring happiness. In fact, studies have shown that most lottery winners are no happier long term than those who haven’t won (the other roughly 99.99% of us).
Many theories exist on happiness. Some say people are born with a relatively set “happy point” and that external factors don’t influence it all that much. Some believe spirituality brings happiness. Some think it’s “arriving” at a certain point or level in life. Sometimes, I’m pretty sure I’d just be happy if a laundry fairy swung by and took care of all those piles, or if my dearly beloved dog would bark at squirrels about half as much.
I can’t tell you what will bring happiness to everyone. But I can share with you a few things that never fail to make me happy. Here are my top three:
1. Girl Time. No matter how much we love our spouses and kids (and I absolutely do – the happiness they bring me is a given), women need the company of other women. Do you have a group of girlfriends you like to eat, drink, share, and laugh with? Most importantly, to be *real* with… I’m not talking about a PTO meeting or a work outing where you have to politely nod and smile.
Last year, I looked around and realized I had friends that I got together with individually, but no group. No tribe. No squad, as the kids say. (They said that yesterday anyway, who knows about today.) So I took the plunge and reached out to several women friends to see if they’d want to meet for drinks. We all had teens at the same school, many in the same activities. The response was unanimous, and we’ve now had several lovely gatherings. (In fact, I think we’re overdue for one, so I’m making a note to set one up later.) I always leave these feeling refreshed and understood… two things that are important for happiness.
2. Dogs. I can count on one hand the number of months in my life that I haven’t had a dog in residence. (Obviously I didn’t take one to my college dorm, but I could go home and see my tail-wagging lab whenever I wanted!) My parents had a dog before I was born, and we’ve been lucky enough to almost always have them over my adult life.
There’s something so simple and innocent about the love of a dog. No matter how long I’ve been gone, my big, fluffy standard poodle greets me upon my return as if he’s been waiting a lifetime. We laugh at their antics, they comfort us when we’re down… and let me tell you, during a cold winter night, this big fluffball of mine is always up for a snuggle. Even when he’s misbehaving (remember the bit about barking at squirrels… and birds, bunnies, the neighbors arriving home, leaves rustling, etc.) the love we have for one another is absolutely pure and unconditional, and the joy he brings our entire family is unwavering.
3. A Good Book. One of the best feelings in the world is when you are so immersed in a book, you reluctantly look up and are jolted into the realization that you actually live in *this* world, not the fictional world in which you’ve been immersed. (And sadly, no matter how hard I’ve tried, it’s not possible to get to Hogwarts – or any other fictional setting – just by believing. So unfair.) Books let us try on other lives, visit other places, and see the world through an entirely different lens.
I get the same feeling when I get in a “zone” during writing time. The book I’m writing has a cozy community feel and I can so vividly imagine the people, the shops, and the culture of the world I’ve created. I hope that someday, someone else will read my finished novel and get the same wistful sensation that I feel reading a good story today.
Happiness, unfortunately, isn’t a given in our lives. We have to seek it. I’d love to hear your thoughts, friends… what makes you happy??