Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How You Know You're Happy

A friend tells me that Oprah will feature a quiz today to determine if we are happy.  The radio also announces a seminar I can pay for that will help me realize whether I'm happy.  I also learn from a blog reader that certain countries actually try to measure the happiness of citizens.

How would we know?   What tool can measure it? 

All morning, I wonder how we know if we're happy.  I ask my husband, and he answers that he knows he's happy when he feels connected to God.  I nod, realizing the truth of that one word: connected. 

What if we measured happiness by how connected we felt to ourselves, to God, and to others? 

As somehow who felt deeply unhappy for so many years, I evaluated what contributed most to that state.  Indeed--and not to simplify mood disorders--my unhappiness related directly to disconnection.  I lost connection to my true self.  I wasn't relating to God, and I wasn't in vibrant community.  Unhappy people often describe their profound loneliness.  They experience isolation and a fractured sense of self.  

My journey to discover lasting happiness began with discovering myself and who God made me to be.  I learned to put boundaries between myself and oppressive, toxic environments or people who couldn't celebrate or encourage the true me.  I learned to connect with God authentically--not with a false self that performed some religious ritual--but by radical honesty, frailty, and need.  I embraced my weaknesses, delighting in failure because it opened the door to grace.  

In the midst of this journey, I devoted myself to building community wherever and however I could.  Maybe it was a walk-to-school campaign to connect with neighbors or a Fitness Group to love the children.  Maybe it was a potluck dinner or a pancake breakfast with the family down the street.  

Why does that freezing walk to school increase my happiness every day? 

My well-being depends upon connection.   I have to invite folks in, enter into their story as well, and realize we belong to each other.

I also learned the forms of counterfeit connection.  Fame, prestige, and wealth create illusions of happiness, but they fail to ever fulfill the heart's true cry for belonging.   I'd rather walk the children to school than be on Oprah today (unless, of course, we were all there together).  Or, better, Oprah could come to us.  

I guess I've learned that even though fleeting moments of attention seem like fun (Oprah would be fun!), they really don't contribute to our lasting well-being. And even when I have lots of cash in my pocket, it doesn't connect me with anyone.  It just gives me something to buy that can't love me back. 

I've been happy for many years now.  It's connection.  And I didn't realize it until this morning.


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Journal:  Is happiness directly related to my connection to myself, God, and others?  If one of these relationships suffer, does it contribution to unhappiness?

10 comments:

jenny_o said...

YES!! My happiness has an enormous component made up of the connections I have with others. And if one of these connections suffers, whether through neglect, misunderstanding, rejection or clash of opinions, it makes me unhappy until I have mended it. And during times in my life when I have not had close connections, I have felt desperate loneliness. Kindred spirits can be found everywhere if you take the time to get to know people.

Roberta @ Silverwalk said...

I am reading a minimalist book the name of which escapes me but one premise was, if your house were on fire, what would you grab? The conclusion was, given very limited time, you would save the persons and pets, letting the rest go. This resonates with your connections. We don't so much connect to stuff, we connect to people. We can use stuff to do that but very carefully and mindfully so the stuff itself (like endless Web-surfing) doesn't take away from the people/pet connection.
A friend has labeled me a "co-dependent." Why? I don't know except she herself is in that mode and framework of language. Does being connected and happy mean we are co-dependent on others for our happiness or do we reach out to share our happiness and creativity (walking children to school, weekly exercise class) with others and in doing so, reinforce our happiness?

Robin @ Pink Dryer Lint said...

I so enjoy your blog, Heather.

LivewithFlair said...

Jenny-O! I love how you remind us that kindred spirits ARE everywhere--if we look! Thank you!

LivewithFlair said...

Roberta, I do think that people misunderstand that word co-dependent. We are interdependent, and this is good and right. Co-dependent is different, I think.

Maureen said...

Thank you so much for this wonderful post! I find that time and time again, what I seek in life are connections. If I don't feel connected, my joy, my energy, my spirit are lacking. I must feel connected to myself, my friends and family, my students and my horse. Without connections, our lives are insufferably dull and empty. Thank you for sharing your thoughts; I love reading your blog. :)

Anonymous said...

My mom goes to Thurston almost 4 times a day. Maybe even 6. She just has to connect.

Carla said...

And even when I have lots of cash in my pocket, it doesn't connect me with anyone. It just gives me something to buy that can't love me back.

I think that is the reason it is important to spend money on things that increase your connection. "They" always say that people get more happiness from experiences, not things. So if you spend your money wisely on experiences or other things that help you connect (to others, nature, your inner self), I think that money will contribute to your happiness. Just indirectly.

But it is very important to understand that making the connections is the valuable thing.

I've really been enjoying your blog. Definitely helping me think about the important and wondrous things in life.

Roberta @ Silverwalk said...

Thanks for reminding me of interdependent - I like that; yes, co-dependent is a whole 'nother cat.

Elisabeth Black said...

I REALLY needed this today. Thank you.