Wisdom//

How My Daughter Has Made Me Rethink What Happiness Looks Like

Often, happiness can be a lot simpler than you think.

Alena Shapran/ getty images
Alena Shapran/ getty images

My oldest daughter is a freshman in high school. She’s played a variety of sports but despite all my best efforts, she’s never really cared about any of them. I all but gave up hope when she developed an interest in Crew. Crew? As in —  rowing? Yes. My husband and I know nothing about it.

She started asking about it in 8th grade and six months later, we’ve learned what this means in time, energy and money, and she’s still certain she wants to do it. When I ask her why, she shrugs her shoulders and says she thinks she’d like it. It’s that simple.

It was a similar experience last year when my middle daughter said she wanted to play electric guitar. She was 11 at the time and this came out of nowhere. When I asked her why she wanted to play, she shrugged her shoulders and said she thought it would be fun. It was that simple.

We see this often with kids: They find something fun to do that also has sustenance for them. I imagine they stumble upon something interesting and think, “That would be fun; I’d like that,” and the next thing we know, they’re trying it out (or begging us to sign them up).

Adults are different. Most of us are busy adulting. “What would be fun to do?” is a question we ask ourselves about Saturday night or our next vacation. But what about life in general? What about our job over the next six months? It’s an unusual question to ask. We tell ourselves there’s a reason it’s called “work” and too often our own excitement and happiness gets put on the back burner.

I’ve recently learned a lot about this. A few years ago, the job I loved for decades wasn’t a job I loved anymore and for a long time, I asked myself what else I could do, was qualified to do, should do. The answers to these questions helped my resume but did little to change my outlook and energy.

Another question I asked was What makes me happy? The answers were new to me. You see, I’m a lifelong people-pleaser so if people around me were happy, I was happy too. Then at some point in my mid-40s, I got really damn tired of trying to make people happy and trying to be the gal everyone liked. I got curious about what might be fun for me… in the simple way my kids seem to ask this question. Of course my answering process isn’t as simplistic because, well… adulting, parenting, marriage — and everything that comes with being a grown up. But the question is a simple and enjoyable one if you hang out with it for a while.

I used to think about my own happiness as a fluffy side-benefit but when I began to approach this question with heartfelt curiosity, as if my own happiness is important, I learned some interesting things:

· Happiness is linked to good health and a longer life.

· Keys to happiness are good relationships, gratitude, meditation, kindness, generosity.

Some of these learnings were more surprising than others.

Lately, I’m fascinated with how happiness works in the Law of Attraction. By being happy, and experiencing a higher vibration/higher emotional state, does this mean I attract higher-level results? (That’s a happy thing to think about!) “Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics.” —  Albert Einstein

There are also numerous scientific studies about how the brain functions when we’re happy: We’re better problem-solvers, more open and adaptable. It makes sense that we’re better results-producers when we’re happy.

All of this flips my previous logic on its head. I used to think I’d really enjoy life after I produced a great result. (Let’s face it, there’s nothing like producing a great result!) But the Law of Attraction and scientific studies tell us it’s the other way around: When we really enjoy life, we produce great results.

So, if happiness and fun seem like fluffy things to care about, think again. Tend to your own happiness as if it’s a necessity because it is: for your quality of life, the great results you can produce, and for your health and longevity. You can start with these few simple questions: What would I like to do? What brings me happiness? What would be fun? 

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8 Things You Should Do After 8 P.M. If You Want to Be Happy and Successful

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