All About Happiness… how to get more of it!
What is Happiness?
Sometimes we’re handed Happiness (like when I’m handed a piece of rigatoni!).
Sometimes we seek Happiness and find it (I’m walking outside looking for something interesting and a squirrel runs by and I get to chase it).
Sometimes we just feel Happiness for no reason (I’m sleeping on the doormat, and life feels good). And then there are times when nothing in the world can give us Happiness (maybe I’m feeling ill, and won’t even take that piece of rigatoni Handsome hands me).
We know Happiness when we feel it, but what is it? I say it’s a state of mind, a way of feeling. Sometimes it’s tied in with Excitement (like about that rigatoni or that squirrel), but not always. It’s just something inside us that says, “life is good right now, and I not only believe that, but I feel it.” Now we know that life is good when someone hands you that rigatoni (I’ve got to think of another example, or I’m gonna drool all over this computer!). But what is it that makes you feel that life is good when nothing special is going on, or that keeps you from feeling it when things are good? That is the question!
Some people say it’s all about Faith. If you believe in something or someone who oversees everything and intends the best for you, then you can survive bad times and still be happy. In Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s epic novel “The Brothers Karamazov,” he talks about how all the famous saints were ecstatic when they were being tortured and killed. (Okay, I know, I know… No, I’ve never read that book, and neither has any other dog. But Handsome listened to a reading of it in his car once, and I overheard that one bit.) Others say it’s all about living in the moment, not paying too much attention to what’s happened in the past or what’s coming in
the future. And still others say there’s no such thing as achieving happiness. That you can achieve integrity or virtue, but happiness just comes and goes. While yet others say achieving integrity or
virtue is the only true happiness.
Now you’re probably looking at this with a “What in the world?!” look on your face. Why is this crazy dog talking about philosophy, when all you want to know is how to get more candy or not hate your homework so much?!
Well, I can’t guarantee you the extra candy, but I can say that, from a dog’s-eye-view, every argument I quoted above is True.
You see, I’m an absolute optimist. Any second, something good could happen, and I don’t want to miss it when it does. So even when I sleep, I’m listening to hear if anyone’s going to sneak through my yard and I can chase them. And even when I’m glum and bored, I’m listening to hear if Handsome is even thinking of going to the kitchen, where he might give me a treat or just
accidentally drop something! I never know what’s coming next, and I’m always hoping it’ll be something I like, so I’m always looking forward to it. That, for a dog, is Faith.
Meanwhile, our doggy brains are smaller than yours, and we can’t think about the past and future in the way you can. And that definitely helps us stay in the moment, and, yes, happy. So
what if, say, someone said something absolutely horrible to me a month ago? Are they here now? Are they saying it now? Is it affecting me now? No. But Handsome’s right there in front of
me, and could he decide to scratch my head right now? Yeah!! And yes, also because of our smaller brains, we dogs do have integrity! Whether it’s a powder-puff lapdog, a starving stray, or
the most vicious junkyard guard, we dogs are always honest – simply because we don’t know how to lie. And that takes so much stress away from us! It’s easy for us to be happy, since we aren’t
sitting around worrying about what to say to whom – we just say the truth! I guess you could argue that some dogs are more virtuous than others (that darn Lassie has always made it so hard
for the rest of us – trying to live up to her example is like all of you trying to be Mother Teresa!). And sure, I’ve stolen food off the table, and climbed on the couch when I shouldn’t. Still, my
integrity is pretty great.
But overall, I think the key to Happiness is in being able to find something that makes you happy. When I’m feeling really sick, everything makes me feel bad, and the only thing that keeps me from total misery is knowing that sickness always goes away eventually. But when I’m not sick, I’m always looking for something to enjoy. That’s why we dogs always curiously sniff around wherever we go… we want to see if there’s anything great out there.
You humans do it – you’ll channel-surf with a remote, looking for a TV show you like, or you’ll “window-shop” at a favorite store, browsing to see what you might want. So why can’t you do that everywhere, and all the time?!
Imagine it – you wake up in the morning and think “What’s out there that’s cool today?” You go to school or work or camp, and instead of thinking “Oh they’re going to make me do things I don’t want to do,” you ask yourself “What’s out there that excites me?!”
Here’s the hard part for a person – it’s not about making up your mind beforehand; if you go to school expecting to meet the love of your life, and you don’t, you’ll be disappointed. But if you
go with open excitement, you just might make a new friend, or read a poem you love… or meet the love of your life! And, incredibly, if you do that, you’ll be happier overall, even when nothing is making you happy, just because it might!
But here’s the funny part. Most people walk through their life expecting or fearing something lousy, and so when something that would make them happy walks by, they don’t even notice it. See? They’re not able to be made happy! You don’t have to be like that! You can be happier!
So try it, and see what you think. Try doing this for a whole day. Oh sure, you’ll come across 10,000 things that you don’t like. But what’s the one thing that you find that does make you happy? A flower? A good friend’s smile? A joke? A song?
Or… you know, I’m still thinking about that rigatoni!