If these last few years in publishing have had a theme, it might be: happiness.
The Happiness Project is a book by Gretchin Rubin (that sucked me in for a few hours because it is such an easy read) about, yup, you guessed it, being happy. But there are plenty of other books on happiness, and more than a few TEDTalks. Everyone is on the happiness bandwagon. All you have to do is search Amazon for “happiness”. You’ll see that happy thoughts are all over the virtual Amazon shelves (from what I could tell, there are 7,759 books on happiness in self-help)
The Happiness Project, the book, chronicles a whole year of lifestyle changes that Rubin underwent to create a happier lifestyle. I’m not going to lie, I really enjoyed some of the things she tried, and I’ve noticed that when I get more sleep, I am happier. Or, when I get out of the house and go to the park with my kids, I’m noticeably more upbeat the rest of the day.
It’s entertaining to listen to Gretchin’s thoughts, which mirror our own lives and our attempts to: declutter, laugh more, read good books, and overall succeed at incremental increases in happiness. It’s definitely worth a (light) read.
At the end though, I had this feeling like, Is that it? Now what?
‘Boosting’ Our Happiness
So I did some research. There are a few ways to boost “happiness”: try taking your mom to lunch. Tell people you love them. The more connections and friendships you have, the happier you are. Remember those girls in college who had a latte & scone date at the local coffee shop every day? Probably pretty darn happy. Figures.
I have always had a pretty tight (read:small) circle of friends. Does being an introvert make me less happy?
In the midst of considering all of these existential questions, I found this gem of a quote through one of my favorite blogs, A Cup of Jo.
This quote gives permission to put the issue of “happiness” on cruise control. I could hear myself visibly sigh when I read it:
I actually attack the concept of happiness. The idea that—I don’t mind people being happy—but the idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness seems to me a really dangerous idea and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness. It’s a really odd thing that we’re now seeing people saying “write down three things that made you happy today before you go to sleep” and “cheer up” and “happiness is our birthright” and so on. We’re kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position. It’s rubbish. Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don’t teach us much. Everyone says we grow through pain and then as soon as they experience pain they say, “Quick! Move on! Cheer up!” I’d like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word “happiness” and to replace it with the word “wholeness.” Ask yourself, “Is this contributing to my wholeness?” and if you’re having a bad day, it is.
—Hugh MacKay, author of The Good Life
Happiness As Our Default Position
Am I teaching my kids that happiness is the default position? That hit home HARD.
Heck, do I think that happiness should be my default position?
The idea of WHOLENESS is a thousand times better (wholeness, for me, can be found in my Christian faith)
Think about the range of emotions that we experience on a daily basis. If we consider how we are making ourselves “whole” in our daily activities, we allow for bad days and GREAT days, and a million in-between days.
For more on happiness, I’d suggest researching another alternative to happiness, proposed by C.S. Lewis : Joy.