Friday, October 18, 2013

Happiness is a choice, not a number

I was recently introduced to a video on YouTube called "Sweet Dreams (Goodnight Song)". It's a sweet, endearing story of a mother bear and her cub as they settle down from a long day out in the woods. As the cub yawns, the mother encourages him to fall asleep for the night.

As the cub falls asleep, we are invited to join his dream, a recollection of the day just passed. We see him approaching a lake, with fish jumping out of the water. His mother pulls him back to safety and joins him in watching the fish. Then we see him attempting to climb a tree to reach a beehive, only to slide back down the trunk. But with Mom's help, he makes the climb. Finally, we see the cub stopping to notice a beautiful glowing twilight in the distance over the green hills and a happily lit home in the foreground. The bear realizes that Mom is not there and runs back to the trail to bump into Mom.

Perfect day, right? I love this video because it makes me think of the good days that I've had (and some of the bad) and I find myself grateful for them. But more importantly, that video reminds me that happiness is not a quantity. Happiness cannot be measured objectively. The reason for this is that everyone has their own ideas about what makes them happy.

You may or may not enjoy the same things I do. But if we do, we can be friends and enjoy the same activities together. If not, that's cool, we can still talk or maybe we will find something else later.

Those bears were not concerned with quantity or even quality. They were just happy to live. They were not comparing themselves to others. They were not concerned that someone else might get to what they wanted before they did. They lived a life of abundance and were not concerned with accumulating anything.

I've noticed for myself that I'm having some pretty good days lately. They come and they go, of course, but most days for me are like the movie, "Groundhog Day". I pretty much do the same thing every day with some variations on the weekends. Every day is pretty much the same, but that means I get to decide what I want to do with the day.

Having more of something that I already have doesn't make me any happier. Having more food, TVs, toys, or even space, doesn't mean that I get happier as a result of that increase. How much more of something that you already have enough of will you need to make yourself happy? That's the question that comes up for me when I watch the Sweet Dreams video. The bears were already happy with what they had. When I wake up and make a decision to be happy with what I have, my days go better, smoother, less drama.

I didn't really start to think that way until about 10 years ago. Somehow, once I saw that getting more wasn't going to make me any happier, I started to focus on what I had and doing something meaningful with that. Now the bears didn't teach me that, but they are a great reminder.
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