There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy. By being happy we sow anonymous benefits upon the world.
~Robert Louis Stevenson
Perhaps you think you’ll be happy when you get a bigger kitchen, or a new job, or the perfect someone with whom to share your life. But don’t you want to start making happiness a habit right now? Every morning when we wake up we’ve been given a wonderful gift — another day of life — so let’s make the most of it. No one can do it for us. “Happiness is not a possession to be prized,” Daphne du Maurier wrote in Rebecca. “It is a quality of thought, a state of mind.”
Let’s adopt a new state of mind about happiness. Let’s stop thinking that things outside our control will bring us happiness.
Admittedly, remodeling the kitchen, landing the job we’ve been dreaming of, or finding that special someone can make us feel — at least momentarily — happier. But the magic seeds of contentment are planted deep within us. Happiness that the world cannot take away only flourishes in the secret garden of our souls. By tending to our inner garden and uprooting the weeds of external expectations, we can nurture our authentic happiness the way we would nurture something that’s beautiful and alive. Happiness is a living emotion.
Your happiness is not a frivolous, expendable luxury. The pursuit of happiness is an inalienable right guaranteed by the Declaration of Independence. But we have to be willing to pursue it. Ultimately, genuine happiness can only be realized once we commit to making it a personal priority in our lives. This may be new behavior for some of us and a bit intimidating. Be gentle with yourself. It will all unfold. Today you may not be familiar with the happiness habit. But like any new behavior, happiness can be learned.
I like to use this book – Simple Abundance – A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach, when I’m trying to reframe my thought patterns. I often do not stick to the daybook very far into the year or jump in at different times of the year. What I’d really like to do this year is to actually read the day’s passage each day for this year, and take the thoughts into consideration during my day’s activities. I really like the tenor of this book and I think having a morning ritual where I read the passage and let it be in my mind for the day, could be very helpful to me for keeping myself living with intent and not just letting the days go by.
Today, I’ve been thinking about the things I’ve denied myself over the years that I really wanted — things I wanted to learn, do or become — and I’ve decided that I’m going to tackle the biggest of my shelved-away dreams this year. I’ve always wanted to play a celtic or concert harp. I’ve wanted this since I was 16 or 17 years old and my desire has never waned. I yearn for it, and I’ve never allowed myself to chase the dream because I felt that any expenditure to pursuing this dream would be frivolous and wasteful when raising a family and having so many other things that always seem to take precedence over such things. However, I think that the cost of pursuing the harp and the lessons would be more than offset by my quality of life improving a great deal. I know that my quality of life will improve because although I have never owned my own harp, I have always adored harp music, and I have quite a few times sat at harps in stores or other locations and I’ve already been able to play simple tunes by ear. And the feeling of contentment and happiness I feel with the soundboard against my heart is a pleasure I cannot describe. It’s one of those things – you know you were meant to do something – and I have resisted this gravitational pull for many years. I’m done resisting, I’m going to follow that dream this year, so help me.
Painting by Vered Fishman