The search for happiness has been in progress for millennia, and despite numerous answers being found, the search continues.
To complicate the issue, there are many types of happiness. There is being happy with what you have, being happy with what you’ve contributed, and being happy in seeing others be happy—just to give a few of the options.
The happiness I’m thinking of, however, sits as the base of them all. It serves as a foundation that other types of contentment can add to, but when it is absent all others fail as well.
The answer is being thankful. Being thankful and appreciative of what we have, right now, at this very moment, seems to me to be the deepest type of joy one can experience.
The universality of thankfulness
To show how powerful being thankful it is, let’s explore the various forms it takes. Notice that each of these is often taken to be a source of happiness itself—which it can be—but I think the root is appreciation of what we have.
Meditation: the entire concept of meditation isn’t necessarily thankfulness, but it is contentment with the current. It’s about not needing things we have lost, or may lose, or looking towards things we may gain in the future. It’s about now, and I think this ties strongly to this concept of appreciation of what we do (and always can) have.
Religion: at the very base of most religions is a single concept: things could be so much worse for you, but they’re not. So give thanks for everything, and do so regularly. Church, which for many people happens weekly, is a constant reminder of this. Be thankful that you had food to eat. Be thankful that the flood did not kill your entire family. Be thankful that you and some of your loved ones were spared.
My Own Approach (anecdotal): I’ve always been a happy person, and I attribute this to my appreciation of everything in life. When I can sit quietly with a book I feel euphoric. When I look at the night sky I experience the sublime and the wondrous. And when I spend time with good friends I am overcome with appreciation for their existence, and our interactions, and our bonds.
The single thread running through mediation, religion, and my own personal approach is simply appreciating what you have, and not focusing on what you don’t. In short, thankfulness is an armor against nearly any event or circumstance—especially when given enough time to gain the proper perspective.
And what perspective is that? The perspective of what you could have lost, but didn’t. The perspective of what you still enjoy yet take for granted. The perspective that your very life is precious, and that the ability to meet and interact with people, and life, and art, and music, and books, and…everything…is a gift.
That’s it. Thankfulness. Look for it at the base of any contentment pyramid you observe or experience. And let us look to the more practical task of learning how to increase how thankful we are on a daily basis.
These seem a bit packaged, but perhaps they are a start for increasing our appreciation for what we have.