What makes people happy? Abe Lincoln was quoted 50 years after he died for implying that happiness is what people get when they set their minds to being happy. A century later Pharrell Williams invited us to “clap along if you feel like a room without a roof.” That’s being meta-happy, you experience happiness when you think you’re happy, and that makes people near you happy too.
For past 86 years, Harvard researchers have been studying what makes adults happy. Being happy requires a lot of verbs, making it more of an action than a disposition. The Harvard crew discovered that happy adults are highly aware of what it takes to be happy. They are constantly choosing to be happy with whatever they do. This seems to be a commitment to embracing the the best and worst of times with minimal guidance from Charles Dickens.
As we reunite with kith and kin after months of social distancing, I hear more positive things about the lockdown than negative aspects of being in a room with the leaky roof. One friend, married for over 40 years said she came to really appreciate her husband and treasures the way they made it through a pandemic together. Another stated the lockdown freed her from social anxiety. She felt peace and comfort during the time she simply tended to her home. People seem to be reconstructing their memories of 2020 to shape stories about the creative endeavors they took on and new things learned, like total household weekly need for toilet paper.
Tending to our closest relationships makes us happy. Clap along if you know how good it feels to strengthen ties with the people who matter most in your life. Nobody needs a Harvard lecture to appreciate the value of true friendship and having a place within a family circle. After a year and a half of only seeing me on a flat screen my youngest grandkids think grandparents are much like Flat Stanley. Clap along if you think happiness, is the truth.
The third ingredient of happiness may be the hardest to feel that it’s what you want to do. It’s taking care of yourself physically, financially, and emotionally. Happy people, young and older, sense time is limited. A friend advised me to separate my emotional connection from our home, sell it for top dollar, wait two years for the market to collapse, and then buy a really nice place on the water. I declined, citing I only have a finite number of “two years” left and want to be happy in a place shared by wonderful neighbors. Personal, family, and my small local community well-being have taken priority over financial gain. Happy people choose how and with whom they spend time with. Clap your hands if you know what happiness is to you.
Mark Twain reflected that some of the worst times in his life never happened. Happiness is not about forgetting that bad times are hell. We can’t always do or have what we want. In general, I consider myself a very happy person. It’s what I want to be. I don’t go as far as Thoreau did by sucking the marrow out of the bone of life, but I tend to take big bites. Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do.
Read again and sing along, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7dPqrmDWxs