The Key to Happiness – a new look at the art of wishing
A few days ago, I overheard a mother say the most amazing thing. She had been teaching her three-year-old daughter to blow on dandelions, sending the feathery seeds soaring through the air, and to make a wish when she did it. But every time she’d ask the little girl what she’d wished for, her daughter would gleefully say, “I wished that you were my mommy!”
Of course, this meant that the girl’s wish always came true.
Someday this tot will learn that that’s not exactly the way the wishing game is supposed to work, but when she starts to do it correctly, she’ll lose something absolutely magical that she has right now.
We dogs are a lot like this. People wonder why we go so absolutely ballistic-nuts when our humans come home. Jumping like crazy, racing in circles, barking to wake dinosaurs – why do we do it? Well, you see, we’ve been waiting at home for hours, maybe all day, miserably alone, and terrified that our people wouldn’t come back. And more than anything else, we’ve been wishing, wishing so deeply and passionately, that our humans would return… so you see, when they do, when our greatest wish has come true, we go bonkers!
Now you humans have a lot bigger brains than we do, and a better sense of time, so it makes sense that you don’t spend most of your days worrying yourselves sick about whether your dog or another family member will be there when you expect to see them.
But wouldn’t life be a bit better if you… kinda did?!
You see, the reason I first got into writing this website is that I kept seeing people being unhappy. And I had such trouble understanding why beings who not only had big brains, but could do fun things like buy food at restaurants and walk around without leashes, could possibly be anything but overjoyed all the time. And then I realized that those giant brilliant brains of yours actually have a bad habit of making you angry or miserable or stuck, and that I might be able to help by reminding you of simpler truths – about running and jumping on people and playing and loving and such.
But I have to admit, this little girl has put me to shame! She named it all so perfectly, I have to bow down and lick her on the toes. So I’ll say it straight-out: This is The Key To Happiness. To wish, from the bottom of your heart, for something that you have and love.
Lots of psychologists, philosophers, self-help gurus, and religious thinkers have talked over the centuries about an “attitude of gratitude” – the idea that living in a state of thanks creates good energy and a sense of peace. Then some even suggest that a person can “manifest” the things they want, bring what they want to them, by imagining they already have them and feeling grateful, as though it’s already there.
Well this idea is similar, but just a little different. It’ll feel kind of stupid when you first try it, but give it a shot anyway: Pick something that you really love. And close your eyes and concentrate on it. Think about how much you love it, and all the things you love about it. And imagine how different your life would be without it, and let yourself feel the feelings that come up then (loneliness, hurt, longing, hopelessness, whatever).
And then wish, wish hard, that you could have it. Think of how much better your life would be if you had it! And when you’ve wished as hard as you can, put it out there, as a statement (“I wish I had a home!”) or a prayer (“Please may I have a home”), or sure, blow on a dandelion.
And then, let yourself remember… you DO have it! You have that home, or that friend, or that dog, or that piece of candy, or that mommy! And let yourself be washed over by how great that feels! It’s like you just got the best present ever!
And then, when you’ve done that, I want you to try one other thing. Try feeling sorry for yourself. Try feeling really bad. Try believing your life is empty and miserable and hopeless… I’m betting you can’t!
Nope, despite your best efforts, I’ll bet that you’ll then walk through the next hour, or maybe the whole day, feeling a little giddy – because you’re someone whose wish just came true!
Now the one thing that might ruin this is if you then go tell your feelings to someone who’s kind of cynical. They might respond like you’re crazy: “So what?! So you have a mommy? You had her yesterday, didn’t you? It’s not like she was in danger. What are you being such a dope about?”
But that’s just because they don’t get it. They don’t see how magic this is. So maybe it’s best to keep those feelings to yourself, or only share them with someone you trust to be happy you’re feeling that way.
And if you have a friend like that, someone really great who’ll listen to you and support you and cheer for you… well, then maybe your next wish should be about wishing to have that person as a friend! After all, friends like that are truly worth wishing for.
As are miraculous moments like my overhearing that conversation. Hmmm… I think I’m going to do it right now… “I wish I heard that mom talk about that little girl… That would really make my day!”
I’ve never written a fan letter before, but I felt compelled to after reading this article on gratitude. I try to be grateful for everything I have at least once a day, and I feel happy almost all the time (although my people often don’t realise it because, being a boxer, I have what is commonly referred to as a classic hang-dog face)
Anyway, I think you’re a great writer and I was wondering, if you ever come to Australia will you come and share my kennel?