For me, a truly happy day is when I’ve taken a warm shower, put on a cute pair of socks, there’s soft jazz playing low on speakers and I’m curled up with a good book. This is when I tell myself that I’m glad to be alive. Sure, there are those moments in our life, like getting a job you always wanted or acing a test that you struggled with, which make us ecstatic but that subtle, long-lasting feel good always comes from appreciating the little things.
Like many others, I used to tell myself that I would be the happiest if I got a new computer or if I won an award at school. However, if that didn’t happen, naturally, I would get upset. In one of these gloomy days when I was sad about one thing or the other, my mother said, “If you are going to put your happiness in the hands of others, you’ll never be happy.” It took a while for me to accept this fact but I’ve never been happier.
We often determine our quotient of happiness based on other people’s actions. However, we have no way of knowing if the other person thinks the same way or not. And it would be foolish of us to think that people always tend to do the “right” thing (I mean, Alfred Hitchcock never won an Oscar, come on). We live in a world stained by selfishness and prejudices and so putting your shot of happiness into other humans (who can’t even save turtles) is absolute buffoonery.
And so, one day, I made a list of what made me sad and what made me happy. My “sad” list was filled with these vague, big, untouchable ideas like success, meaning, and recognition. Whereas what made us happy were these real and often taken-for-granted things like jazz, a swim, the sound of rain and clicking photos. Now, I’m no philosopher and by no means have figured out a single thing about this dreaded existence we call “life” but what I do know is I find myself smiling and alarmingly at peace when I’m browsing through the self-care and cleaning aisle at the Bhatbhateni supermarket. This is when I realized that happiness can be packaged in small things like these and profound, life-changing things don’t need to happen for us to be truly happy.
What I’m trying to say is, for most of us, whether we notice it or not, the happiest moments of our lives come when we least expect it like a sudden revelation while at a cafe drinking coffee or when laughing out loud with friends at a restaurant that is far from a gourmet bistro. However, we fail to notice them and think that as nothing significant has happened in our lives we are yet to experience our happiest moments. But there is no measurement for happiness – you get the same happiness napping in the sun as you get when you finally receive that promotion you wanted.
The Italians have this idea (which is now kind of clichéd) of “La Dolce Far Niente” which translates to “the sweetness of doing nothing”. For many of us, “relaxing” comes only after working all through Sunday to Friday and, finally, sleeping in on Saturdays. We tell ourselves, “I’ll push through the week somehow and then I’ll reward myself”. But feeling dreadful all week for one day of peace sounds like a pretty unfair deal. With a small lesson from the Italian culture, we could learn to be happy and live a stress free life every day. The Italians say one should learn to take some time every day to “do nothing” i.e. separate some time to take a nap or find time to go to your favorite cafe to sit, read and relax. You make it a point to do things that don’t make you feel like you are putting in too much effort. This concept also highlights the fact that our wellbeing and happiness lie in doing little things that we enjoy and are passionate about.
Of course, things are easier said than done.
Happiness is not a constant state – it’s a reward for caring for and loving yourself. And all of us, me included, most times have trouble doing so. After coming back home in a cramped local bus, it takes an effort to wash up and play jazz or sit down with a book.
However, the difference in emotion I feel between me slumping in my sofa with layers of dirt on my face and washing up with Chet Baker ringing in my ears is worth noticing. Of course, there are long-term goals and a dream of how you want your life to shape up but you don’t have to be so fixated on them that you lose sight of what’s right in front of you. The smell of freshly mowed lawn, a full box of chocolate-coated hobnobs, and a screening of a new play at your local theater are there for you to see and enjoy at the moment.