Searching for something to pass the time while on the exercise bike this week I discovered the documentary “Happy”. This film takes the viewer on a rather intriguing journey from the swamps of Louisiana to Kolkata India interviewing people who have found happiness. What I found interesting is that happiness is defined in many different ways by many different people, yet all claim to be happy. Following what many would consider an extremely poor man in Kolkata as he wakes in his makeshift tent style home, eats a minimal breakfast with his family before walking off to work as a rickshaw driver (a man powered cart) he shares his happiness. “My home is good” he says “It is open on one side which allows the breeze to blow through nicely”. He goes on to say that other than the fact that the rain blows in the open side during monsoon season “other than that we live well” His children and wife bring him great joy. Being greeted by them when he returns home from work in the late afternoons makes him happy. Pausing the film I find myself wondering if I could find happiness living a life similar to this man; I’m not so sure I could.
According to a “happiness expert” 50% of our happiness is genetic; a set point range of being happy. Ironically only 10% of our happiness comes from circumstances; where we live, our job, social status and income. We tend to believe that it is those circumstantial things are the things that make us happy, however, according to the experts we are wrong. So where does the remaining 40% come from? It comes from intentional activity; things that we can do to be happy on a continual basis. Another interesting concept is that we can find happiness even in the midst of adversity or hardship. It’s how we handle and process those things that allow us to be happy afterward. For example, relationships can and do often fall apart. I believe that if we learn from a broken relationship and can grow from the experience then it’s worth going through. Learning and appreciating those life altering experiences and embracing the tough stuff allows us to be emotionally healthy and happier. Seeing beyond the initial hurt to find the positives not only brings about a life lesson but allows us to release the hurt and anger and move on in a positive direction.
The idea of intentional living or incorporating intentional activities in our daily lives can be a bit confusing at times. I believe it is easy to make the decision to be intentional in our lives but quite often find it difficult to follow through. Intentional activities can be as simple as driving home using a different route, taking the longer scenic route when, using a new recipe for dinner, unplugging from technology, spending time alone, reading a book, exercising or some other meaningful experience.
We all want to be happy to feel good about ourselves and the lives we are living. However, even though we have the power and the ability to find happiness, we usually go about it in the wrong way. We pursue the wrong things. We are conditioned to believe that job promotions, money, fancy cars, fairy tale relationships will bring us increased happiness. According to the experts these things will leave us less than happy. Learning to identify those things that are meaningful to us will often be the things that are intentional. Examples of intentional living are appreciating and literally savoring the joyful moments of life, setting goals and working toward achieving them and then celebrating those achievements, and engaging in activities that completely absorb your attention for moments in time; exercise is one such activity for me. Finding myself in the “zone” while I am at the gym allows me to completely escape from the chaos of life and focus solely on myself physically and spiritually. Allowing ourselves time to re-connect with ourselves is not only intentional but necessary. When we are in optimal shape (both physically and emotionally) we will be happy and able to share that happiness with the world around us.
This week I encourage you to begin to make intentional life choices. Carve out time just for yourself; be intentional. Leo Baubata of Zen Habits (a blog about happiness, simplifying life, motivation and more) says of intentional living: “When I do it, my life is different, more purposeful more consciously lived, more content with any action”. Be purposeful. Be conscious. Be mindful. Be intentional. Be well…
I think we all need a touch point a place we can go to be inspired. Karla is my children’s teacher, a good friend, and a person with a heart of gold. I hope that her words will inspire you to do more. We are only as good as the people we surround ourselves with. It is important to listen with your heart and proceed with your eyes open. Enjoy!
Read more Karla’s Korner, also please visit Karla’s Lifetime Moms page and read her articles.
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