Without wearing any mask we are conscious of, we have a special face for each friend.

~ Oliver Wendell Holmes ~

Being Happy Doesn’t Take Much

November 12th, 2012 ~ Est. reading time: 2 mins, 14 secs

How easy can being happy be?

Most kids are happy getting their mitts on some colored paint. As soon as they feast their eyes on the rich primary colors they’re hooked. Maybe it’s the pure visual intensity, or perhaps it’s in the possibilities. Either way, kids become immediately eager at the sight of the stuff.

But of course it’s not just paint that makes kids happy. Quite apart form new toys and treats, there are all sorts of incidental experiences that please. Like a hug from someone they love, praise given in front of people they’d like to impress, and the unstructured pleasure of playing with a bunch of friends.

That lack of complication makes being happy infinitely easier than many of us grownups take it. For instance, we overthink of consequences. Like, when I’ve been in classrooms with young kids painting, I worry about the inevitability of spattered ceilings and my dry cleaning. Silly, isn’t it? Mind you, have you seen the cost of dry cleaning lately?

The issue is that we tend to squash moments of potential happiness whenever we mull over too much about mundane affairs. So what if your son’s scientific experiment with marshmallows left sticky gunk on the kitchen sink? Going into lecture mode about the virtues of tidiness would only kill the moment. Instead, it could well be the occasion to award him a cardboard cut out Nobel prize for marshmallow research and give the happy recipient a 30 second speech (followed by an, “Oh, by the way. Did you know all of the world’s top scientists clean up after their experiments…hint, hint”).

Being happy has many levels to it, doesn’t it? In this instance, I’m not referring to its underlying meaning and purpose, so much as letting go of the “uptightness” many of us acquire, trying to cope with life.

This over serious intensity is the very thing that takes away so much of our joy and simple pleasure. Not that we ever set out to get wound up. It kind of happens without us realizing. Then, suddenly, easy moments that used to make us happy feel ridiculous or leave us distant.

In case you aren’t too sure if this is happening to you, try any of these as a kind of happy litmus test:

  1. Start playing the spoons at the dinner table and get someone else to accompany with vocals
  2. Try hopping on one leg backwards round the house (and yes, they will think you are nuts)
  3. Initiate a tickle chasings ambush on your family. Then hoist a white tea towel flag of surrender when it gets too serious.

If doing these kinds of things seems utterly bizarre and unreasonable, take stock. You don’t need to be some super clown. But it’s very important to know when to let your hair down. Making moments happy isn’t that complicated, providing we release ourselves from the burden of always being rational and practical.

So take stock. When we, like kids, can see the fun in simple things, it’s easier to turn the ordinary into something happy. If that’s too hard to do, watch kids. And, if you really love cleaning, give them paint.

Happy Smekday!

The How Of Happiness

Happy Though Miserable


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