When my son was three, the first thing he’d do after waking up was run into my room and yell, “Let’s go, let’s go!” Next, he would look for my hands, which were sometimes hidden in my blanket, grab one and pull me out of bed. At three, he was always excited to start his day.
It didn’t take much for him to be happy at all. Unlike some adults I know, he never woke up on the wrong side of bed. Even when he got upset, it didn’t take long for him to bounce back.
A friend once joked, “Whatever your son is on, I’d like to have some.”
She said she feels happy just being around him. If only, she said, we could bottle happiness and sell it, “this world would be a happier place”.
One of the life skills I’d like to master is being happy. I think being happy is an important yet underrated ability. Without the know-how, life can be a painful journey. Imagine feeling miserable all the time because we are incapable of making ourselves feel otherwise.
Some people are genuinely happy. From my observation, I find that because they are happy within, external factors seldom affect their emotions. In fact their happiness is contagious. Just like some songs are. Take Pharrell William’s Happy, for example. The song doesn’t just make me happy it makes me want to boogie.
Once I asked a close friend why he was always calm and happy even when he was broke. I’ve known him for more than 10 years and I’ve never once seen him grumpy or lashing out at others. His answer was, “Well, I could either be happy and broke or miserable and broke. Either way, I am still broke.”
I will always remember his words. He makes me realise that while I may sometimes not be able to choose the situation I am in, I can choose how I want I feel about it.
Unlike my friend I had to learn to consciously choose happiness over misery. I still struggle with it at times. When I was a child, I was so full of life, just like my son. As I grew older however, I found staying happy quite a challenge. Along the way, many things got in the way of my happiness.
When I became a mum, I started to notice how parents sometimes rob children off their natural happiness. Take for example, the act of comparing our kids to others. This can be very damaging to the kids’ self worth. It is a sad way of telling the kid he is not good enough.
As a child, I dreaded visits by one particular aunt. My aunt who had a daughter around my age, always compared her daughter’s academic achievements with mine. Unfortunately for me, her daughter often did better than me in school.
In fact the first memory I had of my aunt was when she found out I could read. She came for a visit, grabbed a newspaper and made me read a few lines from the front-page article right in our living room!
When we compare, it makes being happy with what we have impossible.
Comparing ourselves to others can also make us ungrateful for the little pleasures in life.
Staying happy I realise, has a lot to do with accepting where we are, instead of wishing we were somewhere else.
In my experience, when I stopped resisting and started embracing the existing situations I got to see things in perspective.
When I was young, I didn’t understand why my mum would put up with relatives whom I felt were taking advantage of her. I used to think that she was a pushover and often wished that she was more unwelcoming to those who did not appreciate her.
Today, I see her as a very strong person. She is able to surrender to what life brings her way because she takes responsibility for her own happiness. She does not expect someone else to make her happy or wait for life to be perfect in order to experience happiness.
I find her philosophy of life empowering. I think everyone is responsible for his own happiness.
I don’t believe there is one formula for achieving happiness. Some people can be happy with more while others are happy with less. So what we have or don’t have is immaterial to our happiness. Maybe the biggest step towards being happy is deciding to be (happy).> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.