Smile. Be happy. Find your joy. Be at peace. Think of your cup as being half full.
I know you’ve heard the bajillion pieces of advice about finding ‘inner joy’ and all that. Blah blah blah. There she goes, blabbering on like all of the other advice-giving blogs, joy shoy. Except this is different. I am not talking about joy, or happiness. Those are both nondescript, hard to classify words that can be pretty darn wishy washy, if you ask me. Happiness? Sure, I love a good joke. I will laugh at a silly kitten. I find various things funny, or giggle-worthy. But glee? Glee, to me, means a heart filled with warmth, a need to laugh or at least smile, a beautiful memory that elicits a feeling of pure delight. Exuberance. Jubilation. Child-like merriment. When was the last time you experienced that? And don’t you miss that?
Okay, first things first: human beings are actually programmed to be happy. That is the preferred state of mind, one that all babies are born with. As we get older, as we learn more about the world, as we see more undecipherable concepts, or experience meanness, as we learn to doubt and become acquainted with disappointment, we begin to develop our other emotional states: confusion, anxiety, sorrow, disillusionment. We begin to understand that not all fairy tales end with ‘happily ever after’ and we begin to comprehend the nuances of other emotional states. ‘Happy,’ perhaps, becomes elusive. But just because we are in (or are approaching) adulthood, it doesn't mean we can't still find happy.
We as adults, we dwell. We get grumpy. We complain. We get bogged down by life events and circumstances. We let work and family play tug of war for first, and we get exhausted. We have too many responsibilities, too many to-dos, too many 'what if' and 'why not', too many too many too many. And the next thing we know, we have forgotten how to be happy. We've forgotten what it's like to just enjoy: enjoy life, enjoy the moment, enjoy the people we are surrounded by. We get too hurried and harried and everything is in fast-forward and we just don't have the time to pause and pursue happy. Fact of the matter is, that really is what it takes: pausing, deliberately and purposefully refocusing.
Part of the elusiveness of 'happy' is the difficulty we have defining just what that really means. Is happy stress- and ailment-free? Is happy the absence of all evil? Is happy the same thing as stable? Can we be happy if we still have bills and a cut on our finger? Can we be happy if we can’t solve every algebraic equation we come across? Can we be happy if our favorite shoes are dirty, or we’ve run out of butter, or our pants have a hole in the knee? Can we be happy when our neighbors don’t have enough food, there is crime in the world, and some of our world leaders are nincompoops? Can we be happy if we are economically challenged? Or don't have a computer or a phone? Unequivocally, and resoundingly, yes, we can. We have to choose to be.
Ask yourself this: what makes you unhappy? Is it your attitude? Is it your experiences? Is it your social circle? Is it your lack of something? Too much of something? Is it your opinions? Is it your criticisms? Is it … you? I’m going to say it probably is. But hear me out! The biggest critic you have is you. The biggest mistakes you make, the hardest decision you make, the most challenging obstacles you face … you are the one naming all of these things. You define your successes and your failures. You define your worries. You define your ‘what if’ moments. You accept or you don’t. There is not one person who will judge you as hard as you do. So … why don’t you choose to accept, instead?
Choose to celebrate your successes. Choose to celebrate your knowledge. Choose to appreciate your quirks and your curiosities. Choose to celebrate your wit and abilities. Choose to embrace your weight, your height, your big feet. Choose to love your curly hair, your freckles, your strong legs. Choose to love your inability to swim 50 meters or do one pull-up. Or choose to focus on that as skill-yet-to-develop. Choose to accept who you are, forgive what you are not, and celebrate what you continue to grow to become. Give yourself permission to feel emotions like doubt or fear or sorrow, but then move past them to a more contented state of mind. Choose to follow your heart. Choose to give yourself permission to laugh with abandon, to promote heartfelt glee not just for yourself, but for those around you. We can choose to celebrate the best in others, too, rather than pointing out bad (or snarky) things about others, focus on what amazing qualities they offer.
Now, having glee in your heart is not the same thing at all as being Pollyanna-ish. It is not the same thing walking around with blinders or rose-tinted glasses on. It is not the same thing being manic, or oblivious to all of the real life things going on around us. It doesn't mean we won't be unhappy or have unexpected hiccup or two. What it does mean, though, is that we will rebound and recover faster. We will be able to experience the full realm of our emotions and live most of the time on the plus side.
Can we honor our emotions? Can we applaud our 'wins' and celebrate our successes? Can we look past our wrinkles or frizzy hair? Can we embrace the glee that instinctively wants to live in our hearts? Live in joy. Laugh with abandon. Love with your whole heart. And, if I may, celebrate the amazing facets of each person around you.