I’ve been thinking about happiness lately. The pursuit of happiness is one of the foundations upon which our nation was founded.
But it seems to me a little foolish to chase happiness.
A little… entitled to expect happiness in our lives.
Why are we Chasing Happiness?
What do we really hope to accomplish when we set out to find our happy place? Are we looking for perfection? Or a world where we never argue with our family?
Don’t get me wrong, friends. I am a happy girl. Am I happy because I make my bed every morning? Gretchen Rubin says that might be part of it. I’m not so sure. I make my bed (and do my dishes, and clean up clutter) in order to not go crazy. Clutter drives me nuts. I’d argue that happiness isn’t simply the opposite of being driven nuts, though it’s a lot harder to be happy when you’re irritated.
If Something Makes you Happy, Does More of that Thing Increase your Happiness?
A few weeks ago, a very good friend came to visit. He is a man of very few vices (he no longer drinks alcohol or coffee, stays away from sugar — he’s in great shape) and dark chocolate is one of his last remaining vices. There’s an amazing little chocolate bar in downtown Portland called Cacao that has the kind of hot chocolate you read about in the Polar Express (affiliate link, but hands down the best Christmas kids book of all time). It’s dark and thick, like melted chocolate bars. They also have about a zillion dark chocolate bars and chocolate sommeliers that can talk about chocolate bars that have hints of cherry or mahogany without a trace of sarcasm.
We ducked into this tiny slice of heaven after the skies had opened up and it was pouring outside. The rain was Hollywood style. We knew we’d be staying for a while, so we peeled off our outer layers and parked at one of the tables. After looking at everything on the menu, we decided to share a flight of their thick hot chocolates.
As we held our hands around these tiny cups, transferring their warmth to our hands, and eventually tasting the sublime chocolate, I said, “I know that chocolate somehow releases the “falling in love” signals in a person’s brain, but I have to tell you, that I cannot possibly fathom being happier than I am, right now, in this moment.” He’s a good enough friend that I could tell him I was simply in love with the moment, and he agreed. It was perfect.
I haven’t been back since.
I know that going back won’t make me happier, and the same goes for other things that make me happy. Ice cream makes me happy. More ice cream decreases my happiness (and gives me a tummy ache and a guilty conscience!). Going out for drinks makes me happy. Too many of those, and I’m sending text messages to the wrong people. Sitting out in the sunshine makes me blissfully happy, but if I did that every day, I’d get used to it, and instead of making me happier, I’d end up getting more upset on “normal Portland” days where the sky is gloomy and the rain is spitting.
Do We Have it Backwards?
What if, instead of chasing happiness, we instead tried our darndest to provide meaning? To do the hard work? To fill our lives with meaning? To do our part in making the world a better place?
Wouldn’t that be better?
A Suggested Alternative
Here’s my challenge for myself. For the next 20 days, I’m going to focus on increasing the happiness of those around me instead of my own. That way, even though it’s easy to get bogged down in the fact that my whole life is going to be different at the end of this month than it is today, by focusing on the happiness of the important people in my life, I’ll get to my closing date with a lot less anxiety.Do you want to join me? I’ll be keeping track of my daily progress on Facebook. We should be friends over there.