Did you know today, March 20, 2015, is International Day of Happiness? In 2012, the United Nations (UN), declared March 20th to be observed as the International Day of Happiness. So, Happy International Day of Happiness to you!
What is happiness? How do you define it? Psychology Today describes it as satisfaction and contentment. They say, “It has depth and deliberation to it. It encompasses living a meaningful life, utilizing your gifts and your time, living with thought and purpose.”
Happiness is getting lots of press lately. While only 50 books on happiness were published in 2000, there were 4,000 published in 2008! Hundreds of universities offer courses on it in their positive psychology programs. The most popular class at Harvard University within the past ten years was one on positive psychology.
Many are under the impression that they’ll be happier when they get to that proverbial place called “there”; after achieving financial independence, after getting the degree, after she gets married, after he finally gets divorced, after she has kids, after they finally become empty nesters, after the promotion, after retirement, etc. Happiness is not reserved for when you get “there”. It can be found “here”-where you are right now. You can have it along the way to reaching goals and fulfilling your dreams. Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D., author of New York Times bestseller, Happier, says, “We are not rewarded for enjoying the journey itself but for the successful completion of a journey. Society rewards results, not processes; arrivals, not journeys.” He goes on to say, “Happiness is not about making it to the peak of the mountain nor is it about climbing aimlessly around the mountain; happiness is the experience of climbing toward the peak.”
You can be happy where you are. Sometimes, for me, it’s been hard—very hard. I was honorably discharged after over 12 years in the Marines in July of 1998. I wanted to commit my life to full-time ministry. By May of 1999, I had what I wanted. I became assistant pastor at a growing, thriving church in southwest Georgia. But, sometime in 2001, I fell into a depression. Everything seemed to be going fine, but I felt like crap. I experienced it before and could usually shake it after a couple days. This time was different. It was deeper. It lasted longer. It was noticeable. It seemed to have no source. I couldn’t put my finger on the reason why I felt so bad. The physical needs for my family was met. I was in good physical shape. I was happily married. Our kids were doing fine. I was well respected and appreciated by the congregation, colleagues, and local community. Work was very fulfilling. I was in school pursing my degree and learning new things. But, my personal happiness was on a hiatus.
I asked myself questions I thought would provide an answer that would give me a breakthrough. I asked myself, “Would it make me feel better if I was leading my own congregation in the city of my choice?” “Would I be happier if I made more money?” I couldn’t answer those questions or any others I repeatedly asked in an effort to self medicate. I wasn’t sure if getting “there” professionally or financially would solve my problem. I felt as though I had no reason or remedy for my feelings. I was stuck.
There are numerous approaches one can take to achieve and maintain a state of emotional well-being. To be happy wherever a person is, each individual has to find what works for him or her. Here’s what I did in 2001: I kept fighting to come out of my funk. I kept asking myself tough questions. I opened up and talked to others. I relentlessly offered prayers of gratitude for what was going well in my life. I gave myself permission to slow things down. I made time to hang out with funny, inspiring people. I committed to learning how to enjoy my journey. I’m still learning and I’ve gotten a lot better at being happy wherever I am. The Apostle Paul put it best in Philippians 4:11,
“…I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content”
Don’t wait until you get “there” to be happy. Be happy where you are. Find what works for you and enjoy the journey. Happy International Day of Happiness to you and yours!