I believe that appreciation is the key to happiness. The realization of the things that we are given is the central force that drives our well-being and is the foundation for a life that is well-lived. The gifts that we must recognize need not be big, and need not even be blatantly beneficial to ourselves. I believe that we need to appreciate the downs in life as well as the ups, because one cannot exist without the other. If we did not know the grief, fear, or pain that can come to us, we would not be able to recognize the wonder that is on the other side. If we were in a world of constant and unending good, we would get used to it and eventually find ourselves immune. We must have a basis for comparison and a realization that this is necessary in order to fully appreciate what we are given.
Some of the happiest moments in my life come from things that would normally be overlooked. As I was walking to my car one day, I looked down to see a plant growing out of a crack in the cement. The plant was stunningly green and was shaped like a perfect heart. I froze in my spot and was overcome by a sense of joy in that of all the things in the world, I had the good fortune to look down and see a heart. There are an infinite number of things that I could have seen or not seen when I walked to my car on that particular day, but out of this infinity, I was given this heart. Yes, it is a simple thing, but if something epic has to happen in order to make me happy, then I am afraid that I will be hard pressed to find this kind of happiness. I could have stepped on that plant, not noticing it, or I could have dismissed its presence as being just another ordinary occurrence, but I chose not to. It is the free will of the individual that determines their actions, and each person is perfectly free to think, feel, and do what they want for the most part, but it is what we do with this freedom that determines our reality. The individual is free to dismiss what they want and to find value in whatever they want, but I choose to use my gift of appreciation as often as I can.
The world may be crashing down around us, but if we in that moment can find one good thing around us, then we have found the key to happiness. Our favorite color in the shirt of a passerby, the feel of the wind on our skin, the look of freshly fallen snow, the gift of each breath that we take. Anything can give us joy if we simply let it.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.