Making snow angels. Running through the sprinkler. Taking photographs. Surfing. Playing “Keep-it-up”. Building a snowman with my kids. Skiing. Visiting my parents and siblings in the house where I grew up. Writing this blog. Holding hands with my wife and kids when we are walking somewhere. Sledding. Yoga. Hiking along a mountain stream. Reading. Snuggling. Just being at my family’s lake cabin. Doing “Steamroller” across the carpet or grass with my kids, just like my Dad used to do with me. Hitting a tennis ball. Flying a kite. Swimming. Tickling my son. Writing in my journal. Having a dinner date with just my wife and talking about our hopes and dreams. Ice skating. Paddling my kayak on a quiet lake. Swaying in my hammock. Working on my book. Sitting by the ocean. Learning something new. Teaching.
These are my happiest moments. These are the activities that bring me the most unbridled, unadulterated joy. These are the things I am willing to take time out of a busy schedule for, because I deem them to be “Good for the soul”. They make me feel pure and centered and serene and light and alive and joyful. They just feel right in every part of my being.
I got to thinking about these activities and the feelings they produce in me. Does the mere doing of them—and the frequency with which I do at least one of the items on the list—dictate my level of happiness? I tend to think of myself as the happiest person that I know. I could be wrong about that, but I think it nonetheless. In any case, I am happy and don’t want to trade places with anyone. But is it all about the snow angels and the Steamroller? Is that enough to explain my happiness?
I decided that what those activities do for me is necessary but not sufficient to justify my happiness. That is, I need them, but there is more to it. They certainly produce Joy, Peace, and Love, which, I think, are kind of a deal-breaker trio when it comes to living happily. But what else does it take? Is there a short list or equation that can actually explain not just joyful moments, but true, deep, ongoing HAPPINESS?
I checked it out. One of the most commonly quoted happiness recipes (attributed to a variety of sources) is: 1) Someone to love, 2) Something to do, and 3) Something to hope for. That sounded pretty good. The philosopher John Locke went simple with, “A sound mind in a sound body.” He is onto something there, I thought, if you expound on the “sound mind” part. Aristotle said, “Happiness is a state of activity.” That didn’t do it for me at all. Mohandas Gandhi, who is on the short list of my all-time heroes, said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” I liked that one, too, but I still wasn’t sure I had it yet. So, I went with one of my other all-timers: my wife. At lunch today, I asked her what she thought the short list of happiness components should be. After a moment of thought, she came up with: 1) Contentedness, 2) Self-assuredness, and 3) Peace. That is a solid recipe (I think I’ll keep her on my all-time hero list!).
With those wise folks as my jumping off point, I decided to take a crack at a simple recipe of my own Happiness Stew. Here is what I came up with:
- As a base, pour in one gallon of Authenticity (a la Gandhi): living your Truth
- Fold in four cups of the Connectedness of your choice:, To a Divine Source, To family, To friends, To everything (whether you feel that is Divine or not)
- Blend well with an atmosphere of Progress/Growth by continually learning and stretching your limits
- Garnish with as many “Good for the soul” activities as you can swallow
Enjoy! (That should actually be part of the recipe, too.)
Now, what is your recipe for happiness? Get out your journal, and go for it! There is no single right answer that applies to everyone, so you have to look deep into yourself to find your unique recipe. Is it a mix of the ones I mentioned, or none of the above? Is it way more complicated than I am making it sound? While you’re at it, process this quote from Abraham Lincoln: “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” If he is right, you have an awesome responsibility on your hands! Finally, make out your own list of “Good for the soul” activities, the things that make you feel happy at your core. I would love to hear what you come up with, so leave a reply and get the conversation started. Trust me, just making the list will put a huge smile on your face. I guarantee it will be worth your time. What are you waiting for?
Be happily you,