“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” – Dalai Lama
What is happiness?
The past few years I’ve been on a journey to figure out what true happiness is. Over the course of 7 years I’ve went through some pretty big transitions from being me -> to wife -> to mother. If you think about it, that’s a lot change a person can endure in such a short period. You go through many different changes: the stages of pregnancy, the hormones and sleep deprivation that comes with it, the stress of finances, parenthood, work-life balance and so on. These challenges can certainly catch up to you!
For a while I was not feeling like myself and really started to ask myself some hard questions about life, namely what is true happiness.
I’ve definitely endured some of my own challenges which affected my perspective on life. We live in a world where things are becoming more and more materialistic, where we spend more time on our phones and less time talking to each other. We are surrounded by images that mislead us to believe what happiness is – a designer handbag, a luxurious vacation abroad, a Friday night out and so on. It seems as if today’s society is defining happiness by the amount of money we make or the the type of car we are driving. Over the past few years this topic started to fascinate me and as a result, I started writing about it more and more. It’s no wonder why so many young people are depressed- we have created for ourselves false expectations because of what we see on social media and television.
Following my uncle’s sudden passing last April, I started to go through the many stages of grief and began questioning my own purpose in life and what is truly important. I slowly began to realize that happiness isn’t the designer handbag I am wearing, but the people that surround me and the one life I have to embrace.
After my uncle’s death, I started to go through every memory I had of him because I did not want to forget anything about him. It then dawned upon me what the true meaning of happiness was because he knew the secret. What was it? He valued life and lived it to the fullest. He was kind to every person he met and valued each person for who they were. He was extremely generous because he enjoyed seeing people happy. He was always one of the first people to help- be it on a house renovation, a car repair, or volunteering at an event, he was always the first in line and he enjoyed it. He laughed, enjoyed dining at fine restaurants and was very sociable. He had an infectious smile that everyone loved. My uncle lived for today, he lived for the moment. In my homily dedicated to him I stated that “our world would be a much better place if we were more like him.”
The months following his passing, I started to realize what is truly important in life. I realized that a lot of these material things that surround us, don’t really matter. They are just that- things. You can have a lot of things, but if you aren’t surrounded by people who love you, then you don’t know what true happiness is. If you don’t have anyone to create memories with, then you are losing out on happiness. If you don’t do things that are fulfilling, then you can’t find happiness.
I began reflecting with my kids every night the good parts of our day and the bad parts of our day. We would discuss some things we enjoyed doing, and if we made poor choices, how we could have handled the situation differently. I started to laugh more when they goofed around before bed time, because I realized that stressing out before bed time is not worth it. Sometimes parenting can be hard- there are highs and lows, so I started to tell myself to enjoy this time because time is going by too fast!
I slowly started to realize it’s okay to not have the “most expensive” wardrobe or the “perfect” body and instead, to embrace the one I have. Now, I am thankful for my health- I feed my body with healthy food and exercise because that is what makes me feel good on the inside! I also enjoy a nice glass of red wine on the weekends (that’s what my uncle used to do!) and have a glass with my husband or some friends.
I started to live my life a bit more slowly. I began to count my blessings and not focus on my shortcomings. I slowly started to accept what I do have – and what I have is precious.
You see, my uncle knew the secret to happiness and lived it every day. I realized that the secret to happiness is CHOICE. You can create your own happiness. You can continue to be miserable, to complain, to loathe and to be jealous of others….or you can choose to be happy. You can appreciate the things you already have, embrace the good moments and reflect from the bad.
I have chosen to live my life in happiness. What will you choose?