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Merry, Happy, Joyful Season’s Greetings

December 20, 2010

Happy HolidaysMerry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Joy to the World. At this time of year the idea of being happy, joyful, and merry is pervasive. Even as people rush around the cram-packed malls, hunting for bargains and waiting in endless lines at the cash register (not to mention emptying their wallets and bank accounts, or running up the balance on their credit cards) they are (usually) thinking of others – trying to find the perfect gift for that ‘special someone’, slipping a little something into the Salvation Army kettle, or humming along to the carols playing over the sound systems. I think most of us are just a little happier (despite the stress) at this time of year.

But isn’t happiness (joy) something we should be striving for year-round? Wouldn’t it be nice if – as one of my favourite Christmas songs says – ‘every day could be Christmas’? What is it about this particular time of year that makes people feel better (about themselves, others, even the state of the world)? And how can we capture that feeling in our lives the other 364 days of the year?

Joy isn’t about ‘stuff’. Unfortunately, it is a commonly held belief that the more money and possessions you have (the more ‘successful’ you are), the happier you are. However, a recent study found that once you reach an annual income of $75,000, the thrill of earning more dissipates. It has also been shown that even the richest people in the world (did you know that 5% of the world’s population controls 95% of it wealth?) aren’t any happier than those of us who barely manage to pay our bills and put aside a few dollars for an annual vacation or for our retirement. Many of the ‘fortunate few’ who have a net worth of millions (or billions … if you can even imagine that much money) are actually less happy than the rest of us because they live in constant fear of either losing their fortunes, being taken advantage of by others, or not having any real friends (just other ‘rich’ acquaintances who don’t, conceivably, want anything from them). A good example of this is the character played by Richard Gere in the movie “Pretty Woman” – he’s a powerful man who makes millions buying, dismantling, and selling companies, but who has no real friends, no ‘significant other’, and who comes to realize that he actually gets no satisfaction from his work (redemption comes, of course, when he finds true love, blows off the people who are simply using him for their own purposes, and buys a company that he helps to rebuild instead of destroy). It may be ‘just a movie’, but the premise is not far off.

JoyHappiness isn’t something that is all consuming. No one feels joy all the time. It’s a state of mind that – like all other states (such as anger, sadness, fear, surprise) – has specific triggers (and they are different for different people), and it lasts for different lengths of time. Charles Schulz (of “Peanuts” fame) once said ‘Happiness is a warm puppy’. For dog lovers, that is certainly true – until the puppy pees on the carpet or chews on your favourite shoes. What’s important to capture and keep your focus on (as much as possible) is the initial feeling that brought about a smile, gave you a sense of awe, or made you ‘glow’ inside (before the inevitable return to ‘reality’ crept back in). This is joy!

Joy and happiness come from the little things – the daily encounters with people (or animals) or events that make you just plain feel good. Most often they are fleeting, and all too often we let them slip past and fade; we don’t give them their due. Oprah Winfrey recommends keeping a ‘gratitude journal’ where you write down all the things you are thankful for every day. I’d like to suggest a similar process – a ‘happiness journal’, where you record all the things each day that made you feel even just the tiniest bit better about your lot in life.

Here are just a few of the many things that give me joy:

DonkeysMy husband serving me tea in bed every morning
• A phone call or visit from either one of my boys
• An unexpected email (or phone call) from an old friend
• The cat settling down beside me on the couch
• A couple of hours with a good book
• A productive writing day
• The pair of hawks that nest in / near my yard every spring/summer
• The first time each spring that we get to sit on the deck
• Donkeys
• The first green buds on the trees in the spring
• Digging in the garden
• The ever-changing nature of my yard (blooms and blossoms, birds and butterflies, squirrels and chipmunks, raccoons and even the skunks!)
• A cold beer on the swing at the end of a long day working in the yard
• Beach days (sun, water, a good book)
• A walk in the woods
• Driving the car with the windows down and the radio blasting my favourite songs
• Riding along country roads on the back of a motorcycle
• Sunrises and sunsets
• Nature (the sheer awesomeness of it)
• The vibrant colours of fall
• The first snowfall of winter
• A good meal (especially if I didn’t have to cook it)
• Upbeat music, uplifting or fun movies, ‘educational’ TV (the kind that makes you go ‘Wow, I didn’t know that’)

So, what makes you happy? Where do you find joy on a daily basis? Don’t look for big life-altering events. Look for the little things that are all around you. Record them. Commit them to memory. And whenever you’re feeling a little bit down, or you think that there is no happiness or joy in our life, revisit them. Savour them. Try to bring the joyfulness you feel at Christmastime into your life all through the year – you may be surprised to realize just how great your life really is.

To you and yours this holiday season – merry, happy, joyful greetings from … the other side of 55.

Season's Greetings

One Comment
  1. Tracey Fraser permalink
    December 23, 2010 1:50 pm

    Thank you for the Holiday thoughts. Wishing you and yours the very best this Holiday Season, and I hope that 2011 brings you all the things that bring you Joy!

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