Happy?

A friend of mine is obviously “covided out.”

I spoke with him over the weekend, and he perseverated on a negative experience he had when he went out and “didn’t mask properly,” according to the people sitting around him. He was at his favorite college’s women’s basketball game, which the team won, and where there were over 10,000 fans in attendance, which is quite a feat for women’s B-Ball.

It seemed that his neighbors objected to his lowering his mask while he was eating his popcorn, an action that he reiterated was CDC approved. He was understandably bothered by their repeated comments to him, showing him pictures from their cell phone or why and how to wear his mask, something that he knows all too well as a medical professional.

I did my best to support him in not overthinking this by changing the conversation to how much fun he had at the game and that his team won! When that didn’t seem to work, I suggested that maybe for 2022, we could all stand to forget about Covid and think about finding more happiness.

That seemed to slow him down as he then asked,” well, tell me then, what is happiness?”

Research on happiness has exploded recently. We all want to smile more and have more joy in our lives, but the quest for happiness is a part of our heritage as human beings.

Happiness is a subjective experience, which means we get to determine happiness on our scale. I like to think about happiness as coming in 2 broad categories. The first relates to how we view overall success and meaning in our lives. This eudaimonic happiness can happen at any age when we stop and assess how we are doing in our life. This past weekend I heard about Dillon Helbig, an eight-year-old boy who wrote a book and then snuck it into a library where he secretly put it on the shelf so others could read it. The librarians reviewed it, loved it, and appreciated his “chutzpah.”  So do the patrons, as there is a waiting list of 82 people in line to read it. In an interview, Dillon said he was very proud of what he accomplished in his eight years on earth.

The other kind of happiness is my favorite because it allows us to access joy daily, if not hourly. It is referred to as hedonic happiness—being in the moment and enjoying life’s simple pleasures, like the smile that comes to us when the sun warms our face, even on a winter’s day. It often happens to me when I walk or play with our dog, Cody, or enjoy my first cup of steaming hot coffee. My neighbor had a big smile on her face the other day as she was telling me about a fantastic Portuguese restaurant she dined at over the weekend. I could see she was happy. These moments are available to us at any time, and these small reminders bring regular happiness into our day

I will remind my buddy about how much joy and happiness he brings into my life, even when he is a bit upset. He’s been motivating me to think for a long time, and that is one thing I love to do.

© Richard Citrin 2022

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