I believe people are hard wired to seek happiness. The difficulty for most people is in finding what it is exactly that makes them truly happy. For some it’s helping other people, for others it’s their family, some are actually lucky enough to be in a job or career that they love and find fulfilling, and it gives them great satisfaction (and money, to boot!). And some people are just happy with whatever comes their way, and they can appreciate the little things (a cup of tea, hearing a song on the radio, seeing the sun peek above the horizon, or taking a walk).
Personally, I believe that most people can make themselves happy by consciously deciding to be happy. That’s something I do, but I’m also optimistic about my life. I experience lots of ups and downs like anyone does, but overall, I know everything will work out in the end. Being happy in this way doesn’t mean being oblivious to reality, it just requires you to accept what you cannot change and to not let those things take away from the joy of everything else.
I’ve been practicing being happy like this for a few years now, but since my daughter came along (one year ago this past Sunday, September 16) it’s become easier. And it’s become easier because she’s taught me that there is wonder in the world. I watch her explore and learn, and it inspires me. It inspires me to not take things for granted, like the texture of an orange and how it tastes, or the way a book feels (or the sound of tearing paper!… which, actually has a very unique and kinda nice sound). She’s constantly exploring and wondering, and I loved how she squished her birthday cake between her fingers… I bet it felt really nice!
So I’ve been trying to consciously experience wonder, with her and on my own, and re-discover myself and my surroundings, to look at things in a new way and not take them for granted. Through this, I’ve come to realize that it’s important to appreciate the people and things around you, to wonder about where a piece of furniture came from, how it was made and who made it. To appreciate a person’s story, and why the things they experience are important to them and how those things have shaped them to be the person they are today. So, for me, when I appreciate things, I find them interesting. When I find something interesting, I feel engaged. When I feel engaged, I feel connected and alive, and I have found that for whatever reason, this makes me happy.
All this isn’t to say that I’m such a happy person. Life can be shitty sometimes, and sometimes I have crappy days and “Why Me” moments. Sometimes I fight with my wife. Sometimes I’m exhausted and can’t find ten minutes to be alone. Sometimes I’m stressed about money and my career path. Sometimes I have a list of things to do that makes me sick to even think about it.
Like you, I sometimes browse the internet and get sick of other people’s happiness and how they portray their life as something sooo wonderful, as if they’re living the life of a celebrity. You might envy them, and then hate them a little bit. But some people’s lives really are wonderful. My life is wonderful. My life is stacked to the roof with good stuff. And it isn’t material things, and it isn’t because I have an incredible career and have everything I’ve ever wanted, because I certainly don’t. It’s because I enjoy the simple things in my life, I have a few hobbies/outlets that give me a lot of joy, and I spend time around people that I like.
Aside from the conscious pursuits of happiness, something I do that keeps me feeling alive and happy is trying to be creative as much as possible. Photography in all it’s forms gives me great joy, whether I’m working on something for myself, taking candid photos of my everyday life, or working for a client. But not just photography. I’ve been interested in a creative life for about as long as I can remember. I didn’t always think that what I wanted to be when I grew up was a creative, but I was the kid who really enjoyed writing essays when we went back to school (“What I Did Last Summer”). This would be my secret, of course, I didn’t want to stand out from the crowd – or get beat up. I would be terrified about having to read it out loud, but when we just had to hand that paper into the teacher, the process of writing was exhilarating! I found writing a paper and having it all come together was pretty great.
For years, I would draw, paint a little, or write something, and then dispose of it as quickly as possible when I was finished. I was super shy and didn’t want attention for something that came from inside of me… unless I was with the boys and that something was a fart.
So for most of my life, I never created anything that anyone would see. It was like a dirty little secret. But now as an adult, I’ve experienced how wonderful it is to create, to use your hands and mind to give life to something that never existed before, or to just express yourself. It’s so beneficial to your own being, to your self esteem and to the people around you. For me, being creative helps me to bring a mood and energy to my everyday life that would not be there otherwise. And I love that. And I love how some of the things I do can make other people really happy. I love our small photography business, Sedna Photography, and hearing about how happy our clients are with our work. It really is a thrill to make other people happy and it’s immensely satisfying.
I’ve been doing some woodworking for almost a year now with a buddy of mine, and that has been an excellent outlet. I’m learning a lot, and I made a rocking horse for Isabella for last Christmas that I’m really happy with, and it’s something that will be around forever, maybe it will even get passed on. And that’s pretty cool. I’m working on a Haby Family Dining Table at present, and it’s been immensely satisfying. Granted, I did have a project that made me want to pull my hair out, but even the worst day creating something, anything, is better than most days when I do nothing.
Even writing this blog and sharing it gives me a bit of a rush and lifts me up a little, ya know? And it isn’t because of the readers (because they are very, very, very few and I suspect half of those stumble here by accident), it’s because today I made something. It’s because today, I used something that I had to create something that wasn’t there before. I made something today. And it felt good.
You should try it, too! Break out those paints you have in the closet, pull the wool and knitting needles out of the basket, get a pen and pad of paper or go for a walk and make some pictures… better yet, print them! Get creative! Get happy! You’ll like it!!