Now, before you go all righteous and reactionary on me, take a chance on my sincerity. What I mean is that I wish you happiness all of your holidays throughout your year, and I mean it for each of you regardless of your faith. So, if people take offense at my wishing happiness, well…what happens to the happiness I wished for you?
As a voluntary part of my job, I attend meetings of the AWC/NAU-Yuma Science Club, and at this Monday’s meeting we watched a brief TED Talk video.
The idea is that happiness precedes success.
In 1969 my brand new Cougar wore a front plate with Snoopy wearing a Green Beret and claiming, “Happiness is a Green Beret.” I still have it somewhere.
In 1970 I was sure happiness was that freedom bird landing on American soil.
By 1973, I believed happiness was attainable as soon as I finished my PhD in Genetics.
Okay, so three items in a series can determine a pattern. We have established a cultural norm of believing happiness is attainable through success. It’s kind of like believing health can be attained through diagnosis of disease. You know what? Knowing that I have PTSD does not make me healthy and knowing that I am sad does not make me happy.
Success does not produce happiness of any duration or stability. Happiness produces success. Researchers in Positive Psychology have the evidence.
So, I spent most of the past year describing signs and symptoms of Combat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and now I am saying that all this work has been wasted?
No. Recognition of a problem is the beginning of solving it; however, if we remain stuck in the symptoms, we never achieve happiness.
What if happiness is not the goal but the cure?
Yes. What if the health of Veterans and their families is not the requirement of happy and productive lives, but the consequence?
“I could be happy if I just wasn’t mad all the time.”
“I could be happy if the VA wasn’t so slow and stupid.”
“I could be happy if politicians weren’t so crooked.”
Yesterday my wife noticed a halo around the moon and asked me to explain. It seems the sight of a large light ring around a high morning moon made her happy. I think she noticed the halo because she was happy, but that is not the point. Happiness is a dance with reality: sometimes Nature leads and sometimes we do. The important thing is to dance.
Dogs like to dance—figuratively. At least my Yellow Lab loves to interact with Nature. That is why Nancy was fortunate enough to notice the moon. Today she is at the store very early to beat the senior savers on first Wednesday, so the happiness of walking our dog is mine.
What makes you happy? Nothing, really.
Okay, how is it that you are sometimes happy and sometimes not?
If the answer is pointing outside yourself, then you are to blame for giving your happiness away.
The video suggested five daily activities that could generate the happiness that leads to health, wealth, and wisdom. (Yes, I paraphrase creatively.) Gratitude (Write 3 new ones each day.); Journal (1 positive memory each day); Exercise (if only to remind ourselves that behavior matters); Meditation (giving us time dedicated to NOT multitasking); and, Kindness (1 conscious act each day). The speaker, Shawn Achor, claims that 21 consecutive days of practicing these five actions will lead to habits of happiness.
Here is my wish for you today: Take a holiday from unhappiness, negative criticism, cynicism, guilt, shame, sadness, and dread. Try gratitude, memory, exercise, meditation, and kindness for just one day. Okay, try it for seven days and then come back to read my blog next week.