Deconstructing Happiness

Somewhere in March the world celebrated the International Day of Happiness. All day that day and since, at the back of my mind, a debate has been raging on. What exactly is happiness? What makes me happy? What makes others I know happy?

All resources I read said, “Do what makes you happy”

Hang on, I thought. Someone might find happiness in the most perverse or violent acts. Can this be stated so simplistically?

I turned the phrase into a conditional version – “Do what makes you and others happy”

No no, hang on again, I thought. Why should other peoples’ happiness be on me? It’s hard enough to understand happiness, harder to apply it to myself. Do I really want to bring more people into this? Plus, isn’t this exactly the loophole that gets exploited to the point that some of us live our entire life finding happiness in others’ happiness. Somewhere in this line of thought, our own sense of happiness, what makes us happy, gets lost.

This is one way of interpreting that line. In a few days my subconscious had another interpretation of the same line. Each day brought with it multiple ways to look at the same thing. However I looked at it, it seemed impossible to reach a definition that fit, in my mind anyway.

The theme of this year’s international day of happiness is “Happier Together”. On a high level this makes perfect sense. In a world where we are at odds with each other more often that we are on the same page, it is important to build bridges and find ways to be happy together, as a community, as one world with happiness as a common thread. Where different races, religions, cultures, mindsets get a safe place to express themselves and not be judged or persecuted. That is the world of tomorrow that we as the citizens of today can help build.

But I was after a more granular level of defining happiness. What it meant to one person, more specifically what it meant to me.

This debate raged on until one fine day when I was at work. It had been a busy day the day before and I had had no time to pack a lunch for myself. I asked a colleague to order something for me when they ordered their lunch. To my utter disappointment, my colleague clean forgot.

I was getting ready to sate my lunch appetite with an oats bar and some water when a couple of women who are also my colleagues overheard me and my colleague talking and all but dragged me to the pantry. Without a second thought, they sat me down while they heated up their lunch. While one of the ladies brought me a clean plate, the other served up homemade pasta. No sooner did I start having the pasta, than the other lady began to serve me some rice and curry which she had cooked.

Somewhere in those moments of generosity and concern displayed by my two lady colleagues, I discovered pure, unadulterated, absolute happiness.

And that’s when it hit me. A ton of happiness could come from the simple act of eating delicious, wholesome food cooked by someone else. On a day that I would have been filled with disappointment and borderline resentment at my request being forgotten, I was instead literally and figuratively, filled with happiness.

That settled it for me. Happiness is all around us, in the simplest of life experiences.

It’s in the gurgle of an infant whose eyes shine as they look up at your face.

It’s in the eyes of a friend whose hand you just held, and no words were needed.

It’s in the morning tea that my husband makes every single day.

It’s in the spoonful of food you savour more because you didn’t cook it yourself.

All we need to do, is grab every small moment and experience it.

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