The starting point of becoming a happy person is to have the intention to be happy. The rest naturally falls into place. By making the daily choice to be happy, each decision throughout the day will be based on that motivation.
It sometimes feels like it is so hard to avoid feeling down or depressed these days. Between the sad news coming from world headlines, the impact of the ongoing raging pandemic, and the constant negative messages popping up on social and traditional media, it sometimes feels like the entire world is pulling you down. What do you do to feel happiness and joy during these troubled and turbulent times? In this interview series called “Finding Happiness and Joy During Turbulent Times” we are talking to experts, authors, and mental health professionals who share lessons from their research or experience about “How To Find Happiness and Joy During Troubled & Turbulent Times”.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Riya Aarini.
Riya Aarini is a storyteller. She has written a number of children’s books, including The Veggie Patch Bandits and Pickerton’s Jiggle. Visit her author website to see her work: www.riyapresents.com.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I always loved learning, so school was a big part of my childhood. It was there that I was introduced to children’s literature and the minds behind the fantastical stories.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
An instance in my seventh-grade literature class set the trajectory of my writing career. We had been assigned an essay. I dove into the project. During the writing process, I fell into an emotional state of flow — completely immersed in what I was doing and feeling at my peak. I presented my essay to the class and was struck with a moment of pride. Regardless of how my essay would be received, I knew I had written something of quality. In that pivotal moment, I believed in my ability to write and discovered that it was something I tremendously enjoyed. That experience led to me pursuing a college degree in English Literature. Following my education, I set out to build a writing career.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
I like to think that I learn from all those who pass through my life. Some people have encouraged me indirectly, like children’s authors, Roald Dahl and Beverly Cleary. By having read their books early on, I had been not only entertained but inspired to explore the heights of imagination. I am grateful to my elementary school teachers, who fostered in me a love of literature by reading to us the great children’s books of the time — and these children’s books still endure because of their ingenuity. I wouldn’t discount the many people who have come and gone and who have left an indelible mark on my life.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
I wrote my first children’s book and expected it to be an instant hit. Put out the shingles, and they will come. No! It doesn’t work that way, at least not for me. That was my mistake, to simply expect my initial efforts would lead to immediate, long-lasting successes.
The reality is that it takes a long time to build a satisfying writing career. Overnight successes are actually the fruits of years of hard work. The truth with writing is the same as it is with all arts: Honing a craft is achieved over time.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I’ve got a couple projects in the works, two children’s books, actually. The Country Bake-Off will be released in 2022, as will Nelican’s Lemons. Both are picture books with positive messages that will resonate with young readers.
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Perseverance: In the creative fields, more misses than homeruns can be expected. While some of my work has been well received, I’ve had my share of misses. Despite the fails, I’ve persevered. Persevering in the midst of failures has led to the successes I’ve had. Had I stopped when I first failed, I’d have never seen the later wins.
Authenticity: I truly enjoy creative processes. Being true to who I am has given me the motivation to persevere in the face of failure while allowing me to feel rewarded by the triumphs.
Openness: Learning from failure is key to success. By this reasoning, I should have overwhelming success — since I’ve failed multiple times! Seriously though, it is helpful to reflect on past mistakes and be open to continually correcting errors in order to do better in the future.
For the benefit of our readers, can you briefly let us know why you are an authority about the topic of finding joy?
Happiness is an aspiration for much, if not all, of humankind. We are all striving to be happy, albeit in diverse ways.
As a human, I am as much an expert on the topic of discovering joy as anyone else. However, I believe that happiness is within every person’s reach. As long as our basic life essentials (food, water, clothing and shelter) are met and we do not live in a war-torn society, happiness becomes an inside job.
Ok, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about finding joy. Even before the pandemic hit, the United States was ranked at #19 in the World Happiness Report. Can you share a few reasons why you think the ranking is so low, despite all of the privileges and opportunities that we have in the US?
Society is driven by ambition — the ambition to achieve a higher status, buy a more impressive property as well as the constant struggle to keep up with the Joneses, so to speak. While ambition to a certain extent is healthy for progress, obsessing with wanting more and more prevents us from stopping to enjoy what we already have.
Opportunity and privilege mean nothing if we do not take the time to appreciate them — and gratitude is a strong contributor to happiness.
Fulfilling one’s potential and flourishing are necessary for a gratifying life, but achieving success as society commonly defines it (wealth, power, fame) rarely leads to lasting and genuine happiness.
What are the main myths or misconceptions you’d like to dispel about finding joy and happiness? Can you please share some stories or examples?
Happiness should first be defined. When we talk about happiness, we mean enduring contentment. True, lasting joy is enjoyed by people of all circumstances, from fishermen living in thatched huts on the edges of river banks to leaders of industrialized nations.
The biggest misconception that has long been ingrained into the fabric of our society is that happiness comes from external acquisitions: wealth, fame or power. We are misled to believe that a fancy wardrobe, a fast car or that promotion will provide lasting sources of happiness. The reality is that joy derived from outside influences is fleeting.
There is nothing wrong in having extravagant things and being content with them. The mistake is wanting more and more and more — because happiness and “want” cannot live in the same place.
In a related, but slightly different question, what are the main mistakes you have seen people make when they try to find happiness? Can you please share some stories or examples?
Projecting happiness into the future does not lead to joy now. For example, we might say, “I’ll be happy when I go on that trip,” or “I’ll be happy when I get a big raise.” Placing happiness on future conditions robs us of the chance to feel happiness in the present. Why attribute happiness to some future event that may or may not occur?
Searching for happiness from outside ourselves is a pointless endeavor. Material possessions never lead to lasting joy, perhaps brief excitement, but rarely true contentment. Happiness is within ourselves. Joy is a perspective, such as having cultivated appreciation and the habit of seeing the glass half full.
Being unsatisfied with “enough” is a definite path to unhappiness. People who have seemingly nothing are utterly joyful. Yet, people who have seemingly every material gain are utterly miserable. Happiness is a state of mind. By adjusting our outlook and seeing all the ways in which we live in abundance, happiness is an inevitable outcome.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share with our readers your “5 things you need to live with more Joie De Vivre, more joy and happiness in life, particularly during turbulent times?” (Please share a story or an example for each.)
1. The starting point of becoming a happy person is to have the intention to be happy. The rest naturally falls into place. By making the daily choice to be happy, each decision throughout the day will be based on that motivation.
2. We can learn to be happy be adjusting the one thing we always can — perspective. After all, happiness is achieved by interpreting life events in the most positive way.
3. Realize that we have enough. Beyond a certain point, anything more does not add to greater happiness.
4. Live in alignment with personal values. Values guide us in turbulent times. When our values are strong, we instinctively know how to respond to events that push us off course.
5. Learn to enjoy life now. The future is as changeable and unforeseeable as the light of each sunrise.
Here’s an extra: Happiness is not based on luck or chance. Joy is cultivated by first making an intention to be joyful and is, as such, within each person’s grasp.
What can concerned friends, colleagues, and life partners do to effectively help support someone they care about who is feeling down or depressed?
Accept them in their temporary condition, while striving to introduce cheer into their dreary days. Diversions are helpful. Perhaps a pleasant outing or joining them in an activity they love will distract them from their moments of gloom. Remind them that life is a series of ups and downs, and both are to be expected. Life, like a rollercoaster, takes nosedives and yet rises again.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Living by Einstein’s wisdom would elevate us as humanity: “Rather than be a person of success, be a person of value.”
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
Lea Salonga is a musical theater actress and an amazing talent. Her gift of song adds beauty and good to the world!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Visit my author website: www.riyapresents.com
Follow on Twitter: @riyamuses
Follow on Goodreads
Follow on BookBub
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!