Happiness is… what exactly? I’m not sure. But I do know it’s not helpful to compare our lives to the lives of others. Let me explain.
Last Sunday Hubby and I were driving home after having visited my sister’s husband in the hospital. And Hubby just happened to mention that friends of ours were leaving for a big trip in a few weeks. This couple, who have been good friends of ours for many years, are lovely people. And they are living what I view as the perfect retirement. They are healthy, and active, and they travel extensively. They’re living the life I expected Hubby and I to live when I retired. And so, as we were driving and Hubby shared with me their travel plans, I felt a wave of what I can now describe as pure jealousy. But at the time all I knew was that I was inexplicably cranky, teary even. What the heck was that, I thought?
|Rainy day walk on the Osgoode Trail. November 2015.|
It was only later when I read this post on the blog The Likes of Me … about naming negative emotions, sort of fessing up, by examining and giving a name to those feelings that can be destructive, or perhaps even just unworthy of us… that it dawned on me what had happened in the car on Sunday. I was jealous. Of our friends, people we like and admire. And I felt childish and selfish, and like Mr. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice… “heartily ashamed of myself.”
|Raindrops keep falling on my head?|
The post I read goes on to discuss Alex Korb’s book Upward Spiral. Korb uses neuroscience to explain how one can, with small life changes, “reverse the course of depression” from a “downward spiral to an upward spiral.” Korb offers evidence-based analysis of depression and its causes as well as helpful advice, at least according to the reviews I read. But it was the idea of naming negative emotions that struck a cord with me. That and the fact that besides getting enough sleep, exercising, and practicing mindfulness, Korb suggests “clarifying your values” as a positive step in triggering what he calls the “upward spiral.”
I don’t claim to suffer from depression. And I really have no cause to complain about my lot in life. None. I am perfectly aware that I have been fortunate in life. But that doesn’t stop those niggling feelings of discontent some days. Of yearning. Of feeling a teensy bit hard done by. So maybe the secret is to drag those unworthy thoughts, those negative feelings of wanting what I don’t have into the daylight, and take a good hard look at them. Call them out, so to speak. And then review what I really do want out of life. And remember what’s important to me… what Korb would call “clarifying my values.”
And if I do all this, I know I will realize that I’m pretty much where I want to be. And I should be grateful for that.
I am grateful for that.
|Foggy fall afternoon on the river.|
One reads so much about gratitude these days; it’s become kind of an Oprah word, now. But according to Alex Korb, neuroscience has proven that gratitude actually boosts our serotonin levels, making our social interactions better, and making us happier. And Korb also says that it’s not even finding things to be grateful for that creates the effect…. one can trigger the increased serotonin simply by searching.
Early fall morning on the Rideau
So instead of feeling envy for what others have or are doing. And then feeling ashamed for feeling envy when I have so much more than so many others. I should just practice feeling gratitude. Or at least practice searching for things to be grateful for. Things like a loving family. And good books. And a husband who cooks. And who knows me so well that he drags me out skiing when I don’t think I want to go because he knows that I will feel better. And I always do. Things like winter sunsets. And the perfect pair of jeans. And financial stability. And good friends. I could go on, but I won’t. I’m afraid I might launch into a chorus of “raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.” But joking aside, I am grateful for all these things; they make me happy.
So happiness is…. what exactly? Is it the “perfect retirement,” the perfect life… whatever that may be? I guess not. I guess I don’t really know what it is… except that I know it when I feel it. And truth be told, despite the odd envious or discontented moment, I feel it a lot. And I’m grateful for that.
What about you dear readers? Even feel unaccountably overcome by the green-eyed monster? What makes you feel grateful? Or happy?