Write Minds.Write Matters
A monthly column by Alexis of her thoughts on things that matters to her. It may be funny, serious, both, neither or some combinations of those. "My thoughts are my own - the only thing I really own."
Follow her on Instagram (@alex.is_imm).
If you want to be happy, just be. ~ Leo Tolstoy
[ Translated Chinese version here 中文翻譯在此 ]
“Are you happy?”
A friend posed this question to me almost 15 years ago. That was the first time I’ve been asked this question. Along the years, different friends asked me the same question or something of the same line.
How do you define “happy”? Does happy mean the absence of sadness? Does happy mean you’re smiling and walking with a bounce in your steps all the time? Does happy mean you do not have a worry in the world? How long do you need to be happy to qualify as a happy person? Do you need something or someone to make you happy? Can you be happy on your own?
These days we have placed way too many conditions before we allow ourselves to be happy. Too often we are told that we need a reason for being happy. We cannot just BE happy. We need to lose 5 or 10 kilograms before we can be happy. We need to have a partner before we can be happy. We need to have a good paying job before we can be happy. We need to have a group of great friends before we can be happy. We need to have children and/or a family before we can be happy. We need to be financially secure before we can be happy.
We seem to forget that we can be happy whenever we want to be.
This is not a case of glass-half-full or half-empty. To me, it is simply a glass of water. I have learned to be grateful that it is a glass of water, instead of a glass of oil or vinegar. Of course, it would be much better if the glass is filled to the brim with water, or it was a glass of wine or beverage I liked more. Conversely having half a glass of water is definitely better than having an empty glass or one that is filled with something I can’t drink. Often we forget to be grateful for simply having something. We can and should continue to strive for a finer and fuller life, but we should not overlook the fact that we are better than those who have less or nothing.
We should not let society, family or friends dictate what makes us happy. Take the KonMari method as a good example. With this method, we are advised to get rid of things that do not give us joy anymore. I think we should all do the same in our lives. Cut off the people who do not bring joy to our lives, or at the very least minimize contact with them. Change our job if it is a shitty one. Sanity and mental health are much more important than the high salary or status it might bring. Ever wonder why so many people are diagnosed with terminal illness these days? I truly believe that when you are unhappy, your body knows it even if you consciously deny it.
Of course, everything is easier said than done. I know that. However, I can either continue to be bitter about the cards that life has dealt me or try to find some happy moments from it. There is always a silver lining, no matter how dark the cloud might be.
Back to my answer to my friend. I remembered answering her, “I don’t know. I don’t feel sad but I don’t know if I am happy either.” It was truly how I felt then as it is true now. Most of the time my emotional state is a line that doesn’t fluctuate much. No deep valleys. No high peaks. I know how shitty this world can be but I also know how awesome it is too.
I am happy when I am enjoying a book. I am happy when I am binge-watching my favorite TV shows. I am happy when I am cooking for family and friends. I am happy when I get to stay in on a rainy day. I am happy when I am learning something new. I am happy when I get to share what I know. I am happy when I am doing something that helps people and/or the environment. I am happy when my friends seek my advice and opinions. I am happy when I am hanging out with friends with whom I am comfortable.
So do the things that make you happy and forget, just for a moment, all the shitty things in life. Enjoy the moment. Be present at the moment. Collect those happy moments and revisit them when sadness comes knocking. Remember, we do not need permission to be happy. There’s nothing to stop us from being happy, except us.
(Editor: Zac.) (Photo from Alexis; Column graphic: modified from www.pngtree.com)