Saturday, February 28, 2015

DON'T WORRY, BE HAPPY!

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              

10 comments:

Lynda Turpin said...

Very good post Mary. I agree that possessions are not the greatest source of happiness. My 19 month old great grandniece brings me more happiness by just smiling at me than any possession in my home. The past year or so, I have been trying to de-clutter my house and get rid of a lot of "stuff". It's slow work, and there are some things I can't part with because they have emotional ties to someone. But as I've gotten older I have learned that an excess of "just stuff" actually makes me less happy because it makes it harder to surround myself with those things that remind me of friends, family and good times. Pictures of friends and family, artwork made by young kids, my mom's journals - those are the types of material possessions that do mean something to me. I have definitely redefined my definition of happiness, and it includes people and pets rather than material things.

Zena Weldon said...

Two strategies I use: (1) I wake up each morning and say "Thank You" to the world for being here on earth alive. When I'm thankful, I smile and feel pleased. (2) I notice what I often overlooked in my rushing life - hearing the sparrows chatter in the hydrangea tree, the patterns in the stones on the path, that every daisy is a daisy and yet every one is different from all others (the same and unique like people), that people smile at me when I smile at them, the snowflakes are plummeting to the ground with fury or seeming to softly float on the air. Just choosing to notice a minute or two a few times a day, slows down the world and then I can turn to the rush, the task to be done, the pain. And I can turn to others with a slower heart open to them. I can also see these posts and be grateful I can read and respond. With a smile...

Mary Jane Maffini said...

Thanks, Mary! We're in such a rush all the time that it's easy to forget how lucky we are and how much joy there can be in simple things. How many people in the world don't have the luxury of a warm shower and a fluffy towel and ... You've made me happy today.

XO

MJ

Kate Collins said...

When I look back at my best memories, they're about people I love, or doing something that makes me happy, not about my stuff. No one says on the death bed, "Gee, I wish I'd bought that new dress." Great topic, Mary.

Mary Steinbrink said...

This is great inspiration as I clean out my basement! I don't need all my "stuff" to be happy. Now if I could only convince the rest of my family of that! At least my daughter and I having fun sorting things out! Thanks for a great post!

mary kennedy said...

Thanks so much, Kate! Our society is way too commercial...

mary kennedy said...

I'm so glad you liked it, MJ! And I'm glad I made you happy...xo mary

mary kennedy said...

Hi Mary, cleaning out the basement could be a bummer, but it sounds like you've discovered the right approach! You're "freeing yourself" from a bunch of unwanted stuff. I've got to remember that when I tackle the basement!

Sally Lippert said...

Last year I read a great book on minimalism. Our young neighbors already live that way so we had a resource to guide us. Totally agree that happiness is not about stuff. Being a hospice nurse I listened to a lot of life reviews. Most people spoke about their journeys not their possessions that brought them happiness. Thank you for this topic today to remind us of what happiness truly is for most people.

mary kennedy said...

Hi Sally, thank you so much for stopping by--I really admire your work as a hospice nurse. I know it's a tough field but it must be rewarding to know that you've offered comfort to patients and their families at such a difficult time.