We’re at a happy time of year: spring, Easter, Passover...when life is resurrected. We see it all around us. Little green shoots coming out of the ground, trees with white and pink blooming flowers, bright yellow bushes and patches of impromptu purple and yellow irises on sporadic patches of grass. So why can’t we see that happiness, let alone our own? Joan discusses this in a lesson on how to see personal happiness in this season of renewal.
Q. Let me start by the obvious question: do you know when you’re happy?
Joan: I remember that song from when we were little: “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands, if you’re happy and you know it clap your hands, if you’re happy and you know it and you really want to show it if you’re happy and you know it clap your hands.”
Thinking about this song brings back joyous memories of dancing around my family room singing it with my children and perhaps, even having it sung to me as a child. The lyrics are simple and yet so profound – if you’re happy and you know it, show it (feel it, live it, experience it).
This past weekend I tried something that I had never done before. One of my friends invited me to a Tarot card party where an expert would offer private readings. Intrigued, I agreed to attend. During my reading, the woman said something that really struck a nerve with me; she told me that I don’t know when I’m happy.
Q. That certainly is interesting. Were you shocked, offended? How did it make you feel?
Joan: Interestingly, this thought has been on my mind ever since I interviewed Dr. Rick Hanson, the author of Hardwiring Happiness. As a result of our discussion, I have been contemplating whether or not I truly feel happiness.
Dr. Hanson spoke with me about how we let life pass us by, never realizing the joy of our experiences, thus allowing peace and happiness to elude us. He explained that when we feel pleasure, really let it sink in and focus on it, we are not only happier people in the moment, but we change our brain chemistry resetting it back to its natural resting state – its responsive mode – which refuels and repairs the body, makes us feel peaceful, happy, and loved, and helps us to act with confidence and compassion.
Q. Well, that’s encouraging. So, do you know when you’re happy these days?
Joan: No, I don’t know when I’m happy. I’ve been thinking, boy, was she right. Even though I know better, I still expend energy reminiscing about family members that have passed on, a marriage that fell apart, betrayals, missed opportunities, time I believe to have been wasted. I rush through my days barely picking my head up to notice all the blessings that have been bestowed upon me, not allowing myself to be content. Then I wonder why I have moments when I feel sad, unfulfilled, lonely, anxious, and depressed.
It’s an inside job!
Q. So, what would you say to others struggling with this happiness quotient?
Joan: Think about these questions: do you let yourself feel joy and gratitude or do the good times pass you by? Do you see the blessings in your life or do you ruminate constantly about what’s missing, what you wish you had?
Dr. Rick Hanson’s advice? Spend a few extra seconds concentrating on something happy and joyful. Let the experience linger. Really notice it. Appreciate it. Be grateful for it. If you see a beautiful flower, look at it a few extra seconds. Don’t just glimpse at it and move on to the next thing. Savor pleasant experiences and make this become a daily practice. According to Dr. Hanson, this is all it takes to make a dramatic change in your brain and in your life.
So, next time, when you’re happy, KNOW it, FEEL it, SHOW it and remember to clap your hands, stomp your feet, shout hooray!