“Born for the blue skies / We’ll survive the rain /
Born for the sunrise / We’ll survive the pain.”
~Dark Horses by Switchfoot
The word “happiness” is a deceptively simple word, like its kins fairness, justice, gender, time, G/god, peace, ideology, love, and other abstract terms embedded in the dictionary.
Merriam Webster defines it as:
hapˊpi.ness: n. a feeling of great pleasure, contentment, joy, etc.
Other notable people have likewise given their own meaning of the word:
“Happiness is a warm gun.” ~The Beatles
Happiness is two kinds of ice cream / Finding your skate key, telling the time / Happiness is learning to whistle / Tying your shoe for the very first time / Happiness is playing the drum in your own school band / And happiness is walking hand in hand
Happiness is five different crayons / Knowing a secret, climbing a tree / Happiness is finding a nickel / Catching a firefly, setting him free / Happiness is being alone every now and then
And happiness is coming home again
~ “Happiness” by Lea Salonga and Gerard Salonga
“Julie: What is happiness for you, David? Happiness to me is being with you.” ~Cameron Diaz’ character talking to Tom Cruise’s in the movie, Vanilla Sky
Ok, so they are not exactly great thinkers, philosophers or experts on happiness, but there is truth in what they say, no? They have varying definitions of happiness, but what is pretty obvious is that happiness is different for every person. What makes you happy can be another person’s misery. Just like what Incubus sings in “Favorite Things”
“Too bad the things that make you mad are my favorite things. I’m so happy!”
It would make your parents extremely happy if they see you practice Law, but this in turn will kill your burning dreams of becoming a musician. You are happy to exchange a life of endless freedom for a life inside monastery walls, which would make your girlfriend really sad.
I am not an authority on happiness. (Who is anyway?!) In fact, I struggle with achieving it. Life has been throwing planets of difficulties at me for quite a while now, and it has not been easy. Aspects of my career and family life have been particularly troublesome, and I have often wondered when the “(darkest) hour before the dawn” would finally end because, man, this hour feels like an eternity! And being a natural gloomy person, happiness sometimes feels like a battle with the world, or worse, with myself. I have wondered how some people can easily be happy with a snap of a finger, when the pessimist in me believes that it is one of the hardest things in the world! Happiness is hard work! In a world of pain, problems, sadness, despair, hopelessness, desolation, and heartaches, to be happy means to see beyond all these negativities! To be happy, means to see even splinters of light in a dark place. To be happy means to see infinitesimal patches of blue in an overcast sky. To be happy means to have hope, and hope is something that does not come by easily. If you have a Leo Tolstoy mindset on happiness (“If you want to be happy, then be”), I don’t. For me, it’s not that easy.
I once read a book when I was in high school that touched on the topic of happiness. An excerpt of the book follows:
“As Popular Sanguine has to force himself to get organized, you have to force yourself to be cheerful. As I explained this principle to my son, he countered, ‘But I don’t feel cheerful.’
‘You don’t have to feel cheerful, just be cheerful. I’d rather have phony joy than genuine depression.’
Realize no one likes gloomy people. Even if you have every reason in the world to go hang yourself, no one wants to hear about it.”
~ “Personality Plus: How To Understand Others by Understanding Yourself” by Florence Littauer, page 106 ~
With whom do you agree more? I can relate to the son more. Wouldn’t it be more wonderful if you didn’t have to force yourself to be happy and that happiness was something you’d naturally feel? (for those who have read the book, my personality combination is Perfect Melancholy, so that explains why! 🙂 )
However, l do not totally dismiss the truth in the mother’s words too. I try to do that and it does work once in a while. As I have mentioned, if you want to be happy, you have to work for it. For me, it’s easier to succumb to sadness and depression. So how do I try to feel/be happy even for a teeny-weeny bit when everything is crumbling down around me? It’s in the little things:
- Surround yourself with positive /bright / funny people. Their light personalities can definitely influence you especially if you’re a naturally gloomy person. It is good to be in a group of happy friends. Acquainting yourself with equally pessimistic and depressed peers is just going to enclose you in a world of sadness, and god forbid, your idea of fun is taking poison laced drinks all at the same time!
- Music is a sanctuary for me. I drown myself in it. Listening to angry music definitely helps release the tension; and the sorrowful kind helps me find a friend to commiserate with for sure, but it would be more helpful if the music I listen to especially when I am depressed is something positive. I don’t necessarily suggest listening to Christian music or anything like that, but just something that doesn’t add fuel to the flame. If you’re on the verge of breaking down and you listen to something that would get you singing like cutting your life into pieces ‘cause it is your last resort, well, it’s not really that helpful. How about listening to something that tells you that you should not say you’re on your way down ‘cause God gave you smile, grace, and a smile upon your face? Or perhaps listen to something that tells you that you should just try your best, do everything you can, and that you shouldn’t worry about about what other people say. This may sound as a cliché but how about listening to something that will remind you that the best times are yet to come? Music can be a great source for pieces of advice. You just have to choose well to which one you should listen. (Note: I am not anti-Papa Roach, I actually have some of his albums!)
- This sounds silly but I have these “affirmations” stored in my phone’s daily calendar to remind me to stay positive. Statements like “I feel bright and vital today.” Or “The world is plotting to do me good today. I can’t wait to see what is!” or “Think of happy thoughts.” Or “Everything’s not lost.” Or simply, “Breathe.” I read them when I wake up in the morning so they kind of set the tone for the entire day. The universe is listening. Utter your words carefully and they will echo back at you and will be a reality.
- When you feel like exploding or breaking down, just like what I said in letter C, think of happy thoughts. Quickly flip through your memory bank and remember a happy time. Go there. Relive it and make it as your temporary shelter. I know happiness is doubled when you share happy events in your life, but for me, sometimes I keep a happy memory but I don’t share it with another person. I feel that the happiness of that memory becomes more “concentrated” or potent; that somehow it’s purer and untainted. Good and happy memories are powerful. Always keep something handy so when dementors appear, you can easily point a stick at them and shout, Expecto Patronum!
- Children can be irritating and annoying but their company can sometimes ease your pain. They laugh easily even at the simplest of things. Learn to do it too. Or force yourself to laugh too. Hey, even Laughter Yoga recommends it! Laughing, even when there’s nothing funny or when it is forced, compels the brain to release endorphins – the “happy” hormones.
- Try to see and appreciate at least one beautiful thing that happened to your day. Even the simplest thing will do. I believe that there are things that would always prove that you are blessed despite all the unfolding drama in your life.
Being happy is not without huge risks and sacrifices, but ultimately – and I’m slowly realizing this now – that it does depend on oneself. You can choose a life of sadness or you can choose to be happy. (Sudden realization: I guess Leo Tolstoy is right after all, huh?) It is your life, and therefore, your decision. Your happiness is your responsibility. Life is full of tragedies, yes, but you and only you, are responsible for your happiness. Do what makes you truly happy. Some people say that you should not try to chase happiness, but I think you do have to go for what would make you happy, toil for it, and if necessary, even fight for it. Because to be happy is indeed our god given right. We were born for the blue skies and the sunrise. It is our destiny.
PS. Just a few months back, Coca-Cola released a commercial about a 100-year-old man sharing his secrets on happiness. I must admit I was moved by it. “Pinanganak ka para maging maligaya.” That line really got me. And the whole commercial got me teary-eyed. This ad is in Filipino but this particular video has English subtitles. Check it out.