Happiness: Reflections Five Years On
I’ve just been following my “paper trail” back to where I was five years ago. This is fairly easy when you are both a regular blogger and a Facebook user.
Five years ago early this month, I had booked a ticket to New Zealand. My grandson was seven months old. In a few weeks, I would be flying out of LA. Lots to look forward to. Lots to be happy about.
Coincidentally, here on HealthCentral happiness was what I was writing about. My thinking at the time was a work-in-progress, and I seemed to have backed into the topic almost by accident. Thus, from my first post:
Today, while running some errands, I stopped in at Barnes and Noble and purchased “The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living” by His Holiness The Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler MD.
The authors pointed out that unhappy people tend to be more self-focused and are often socially withdrawn, brooding, and even antagonistic. By contrast, among other things, happy people are generally more loving and forgiving than unhappy people.
It seems that getting wrapped up in ourselves is the key to unhappiness, and unfortunately we’re all very good at it.
As I reported:
The Dalai Lama’s message is simple, really. We get over ourselves by paying attention to others. We signal a willingness to put their needs before ours. We cultivate loving kindness. Next thing we’re establishing connections and intimacies. Next thing, we’re not as absorbed in our own destructive thoughts and feelings. Next thing we’re not alone. Next thing, maybe, there are periods in our life where we are experiencing happiness.Real happiness. Not just fleeting pleasure or superficial gratification.
You don’t exactly learn these skills overnight, but as I concluded at the time: “Happiness is hard work. Very hard work. It’s not a cop-out. It’s life’s greatest challenge.”
I fired off some other posts based on more reading, then in late July I boarded my New Zealand flight. When I got back, I wrote this:
Last week, something totally unaccustomed happened to me: I actually experienced every day practically all day of being happy. Suddenly, for me, the pursuit of happiness is no longer a mere academic exercise. I now have some practical experience, which will inform all my writing from now on, whether on the topic of happiness or not.
So, what went right?
What went right, of course, was arriving in New Zealand, and, with my proud daughter and son-in-law looking on, holding my grandson in my arms for the very first time.
And here I am, five years later, reflecting on all that momentous occasion. And how is that making me feel? Well - happy?
Further reading …
John is an author and advocate for Mental Health. He wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Depression and Bipolar Disorder.