Saturday, February 28, 2015


by Mary Kennedy                               

So much has been written about happiness that I was surprised when a close friend told me she was planning to write a book about it. Not wanting to dampen her enthusiasm,(but hoping to offer a reality check), I asked her if she had done an Amazon search of the topic.  No, it seems she hadn't.  So I did.

Here's what I found. Almost 80,000 books on Amazon contain the word happiness in the title. There are some famous, best-selling books on happiness, including The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Ms. Rubin advocates taking pleasure in simple things and has daily, weekly and monthly goals. She sings in the shower, organizes her closets and does projects with her children. And she evaluates the results of her efforts.  Like many of us, she wonders why happiness is so elusive. Could happiness really be as simple as Charlie Brown suggests?
One thing I've learned from my clinical practice as a psychologist is that money and material possessions don't lead to happiness. Naturally, you need enough to live on, enough to meet your daily needs and to protect your future.  But do we really need tons of possessions?
A recent study conducted by Havas Worldwide found that 4 out of 5 people agree with the statement: "I could happily live without most of the things I own." As one of my friends says, "The problem with having a lot of stuff is that you have to take care of a lot of stuff."

Most psychological studies conclude that "experiences" are more valuable than possessions in adding to our happiness. A week-end trip to Williamsburg with the kids is more memorable than a new sofa. Which will they remember years from now? Which will you remember?

And much of happiness is a choice. Yes, some days it's difficult to remember that we can "choose" to have a good day. Tragedy strikes, careers falter, friends disappear. But there's always a glimmer of sunshine there, if we can just dig deep enough to find it.
Relationships, whether they be with people or pets, contribute greatly to our happiness.  Pets are particularly important for the elderly who may have lost their friends and relatives over the years and feel lonely and isolated. A pet can bring a source a joy and comfort into their lives. When I worked in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, I saw firsthand how happy the residents were when volunteers visited with their companion animals.  It  made their day!                                 

      So remember to find some happiness in every day, even if it's just a quick nod of gratitude for the friends and loved ones we still have with us. Do you have any tips or strategies for finding happiness in tough times?

Mary Kennedy