This I Believe

Laura - Alameda, California
Entered on June 14, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50

I believe that the key to happiness is learning to appreciate the things you do have, and not dwell on the things you don’t have. I believe you have to learn to appreciate certain basic things we all take for granted, such as the ability to walk, to see, to smell, to feel, to think. By learning to not take them for granted you can achieve happiness. I say achieve, because I don’t think happiness is just a given. It’s learning to appreciate the things you do have, however simple, that will make you happy. Lamenting the things you don’t have will just as surely make you unhappy.

I was in a serious bicycle accident a few years ago which caused me to reevaluate my life. The accident landed me in intensive care for a few weeks with a bad head injury and problems with my vision. It was a wonderful accident, the best kind you can have, because I made an almost complete recovery, with a lasting side-effect of an appreciation for things which might have been taken away from me. I now celebrate April 13th every year as Happy to be Alive Day, to commemorate the date.

I believe that you can & should practice at being happy, and that we shouldn’t wait for an accident to teach us these life lessons. To practice at being happy, try to not focus on things you don’t have. These generally tend to be small things anyway, petty when you evaluate them against a whole life, such as missing a bus, or not having a million bucks in your bank account, or putting on pants to find they are a little tight. One way to practice at being happy is to wake up every morning and say to yourself 3 things that make you happy. Every day you should be able to come up with 3 new things. It doesn’t have to be anything earth-shattering, just small things. For instance, the 3 things that made me happy today were: our daughter looked so cute and content this morning when she was still asleep, the peaches from the farmer’s market are really good and are waiting for me downstairs, and the bulbs I planted months ago are sending up some light green feathery shoots.

The happiest people I have met have been, strangely, the ones who have suffered the most adversity. Those who have been through wars, or terrible conditions, are generally more appreciative of everything we take for granted.

A serious blow can turn out to be a very good thing. You will learn how much you do have.