The other morning we were going to the gym when we passed a little girl holding hands with her mother. The girl was happily skipping along. It immediately made Deb ask: Why do little girls skip? And why do little boys run when they can walk?
Obviously, it’s because these are expressions of happiness. But it made us stop and think about how we express our happiness once we get to be adults.
Deb: The little girl skipping made me remember that when I was little I used to sing to myself. No particular tune or song, but I would often find myself humming or singing without even realizing I was doing it. Ed says I still do that. The interesting thing is that, even though I didn’t have the happiest of childhoods—mother divorced father for cruelty, I was in boarding school from age eight, and so on—there was a happiness inside me that was all mine, untouched by drama or trauma.
Ed: I used to dance with my sister and brother; we had a whole routine the three of us would do together. I come from a one-bedroom apartment in the Bronx with a stepmother who made life difficult, but I was always able to find a place to dance. When I danced I was at my happiest, it took me out of my daily reality and was the way I could really express myself. I was even a dancing teenager on television and won the NYC dance championships!
“Happiness cannot come from without. It must come from within.” –Helen Keller
It would seem that regardless of emotional and physical hardships there is a place inside each of us that is essentially happy and free—but we have a tendency to ignore this place, to deny our happiness, or to think that being happy is dependent on circumstances or fortune.
One night we were walking through Pondicherry, a city in southern India, stepping carefully to avoid rats and dog pooh, when we saw two boys preparing for bed, which was on the hard concrete of the sidewalk. What really struck us was, in spite of their clear hardships, they were laughing loudly and happily. Having more is not always better, especially when your happiness is greater than your material wealth.
In the West we correlate happiness with economic prosperity. But in Bhutan, a small but beautiful country in the Himalayas squeezed between northern India and China, they determine their country’s wealth by the quantity of Gross National Happiness (or GNH). People’s level of happiness serves as a vision for the economic and development plans of the country.
Bhutan is not a materially rich country and life for most people is hard—there were no roads before 1960, they till the high mountain fields with oxen, and certainly most do not have central heating or air conditioning. But their happiness is that deep sense of appreciation and inner contentment. This is seen in their sense of community and caring for one another, and their radiant smiles.
“Gratefulness is the key to a happy life that we hold in our hands, because if we are not grateful, then no matter how much we have we will not be happy—because we will always want to have something else or something more.” –Brother David Steindl-Rast
Given the current economic difficulties many of us are now facing, perhaps this is the perfect time to reassess what gives us happiness and how we express it—to reconnect with the inner joy that made us either skip or run when we were younger—for it is easy to forget to be happy.
“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” –M. Scott Peck
How do you express your happiness? Do write a comment below.