For the first time in a very long time, I found myself with an empty Saturday afternoon this past weekend. What a treat! And so yes, I could have gone to the gym or cleaned my house or done the laundry, but I didn’t. Instead I chose to plop down on the couch, wrap up in a blanket, and watch a movie. I’m so glad I did.
The movie I chose (or rather Netflix suggested) was Hector and the Search for Happiness. As my daughter says, it was a total Tracy movie. In this film, the main character Hector, a middle-aged English man, finds himself a bit bored with work and life. Being that he is a psychiatrist, Hector is concerned that since he himself is feeling out of sorts, perhaps he’s not serving his patients well. So much to the dismay of his girlfriend, he decides to take off and travel the world for “research.” For the majority of the movie, we watch as Hector goes through a myriad of comical and scary adventures. All the while he is keeping a list of what does and does not make people happy.
I enjoyed this movie because it was different and funny yet also meaningful. And it really got me thinking: what makes us happy, or more important personally, what makes me happy? I think it’s definitely a question we need to ask ourselves, for many reasons.
I am a Christian which also means I believe I’m designed to serve God and my fellow man. One could easily argue that happiness should not be on my priority list. However, I believe God wants us to be content (check out Ecclesiastes 3:12-13, Psalms 37:4, Proverbs 17:22 or 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ). I also think we’re at our best when our own needs are met. It is then that we can be more productive, kind, loving and giving toward others. It’s a win for the world.
So the question becomes, how does one achieve happiness? Is it through attaining our goals? Acquiring the cool things we covet? Spending time with loved ones? Giving to others? Traveling more? Though it’s a simple question, the answer must be elusive to many, as there are a myriad of books and psychological research on the topic. This blog post could go in a million directions, but let’s stick with the movie for now.
The list Hector comes up with is a good one. And while I won’t spoil the movie for you by sharing it, I will say this: when it comes to being happy, think small. Through his experiences and the people he meets, Hector realizes happiness is not about possessions or accomplishments or money or looks or having found the love of your life even. It is about the way you live, love and perceive the world around you.
Two weeks ago the pastor at my church suggested we keep a gratitude journal for two weeks (until Thanksgiving) and see how it makes a difference. Yawn. How often have we all heard this? For about 5 seconds I smugly thought about how for years I’ve been writing down 5 things I’m thankful for each day. But that thought was quickly countered by another thought (um, thanks God, for the reality check). I currently mark off the things I’m grateful for faster than I make out my grocery list. Lame! So, I decided to challenge myself. I would not only write about the things I am thankful for, but also a few sentences about why I was thankful for those things.
I’m only a week in, and I can’t tell you what a difference it has made. Writing about my blessings and why I’m grateful for them makes them come alive. I begin to feel excited about all the things I have. And trust me, I’m just your average person. Today I wrote about how much I love a class I’m taking, how lucky I am to have my best friend, how cozy my house is when it’s cold and rainy out and how fuzzy socks rock. Sounds silly, but it does the trick. I believe this exercise is improving my mood (perhaps we should ask my husband to be sure…). I actually looking forward to the few minutes I spend on it each day.
Am I a Pollyanna you ask? Well, maybe. I do try to focus on the good in life. But it doesn’t mean I’m in denial. I’ve had my share of cruddy times. Haven’t we all. I could write an entire post of all the thing in my life that make me slightly batty. But I don’t like focusing on such things. It downright sucks the energy right out of me. So when I start down that path, I try to remember: When I choose to focus on what I’m grateful for (every day, not just during the holidays) I am rewarded. My mood is lighter, my perspective changed, my heart a little healthier. I’m sure that I’m a little easier to live with.
We hear it all the time: be grateful. In fact, we hear it so much we often tune out the message. We’ve long been reminded to focus on our blessings or keep a gratitude journal. We’re all well aware that research proves gratitude is good for us. In some ways, we’re kind of over the entire message.
But still. There it is: gratitude and happiness go hand in hand. It’s the simplest answer of all.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO MY AMERICAN FRIENDS AND HAPPY DAY TO THE REST OF YOU! MAY YOU ALL REMEMBER HOW BLESSED YOU TRULY ARE.