What is happiness?

The following is an extract from Cathy McCarthy’s book, Not The Year You Had Planned, on the subject of happiness.

Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect.
It means that you have decided to look beyond the imperfections.
– Author unknown

I was lying in bed one morning thinking about happiness and trying to put into words what it is. These are some of my thoughts. I can tell you what it is not. It is not, as the media and advertisements would claim, to be found in wearing designer clothes, expensive perfume or trying to emulate the latest model. In fact all of these will only serve to make you unhappy, if the truth were told. It cannot be bought and that’s why we are so disappointed if we think the contrary, leaving us empty and deflated. I have also realised that no material possessions can make you happy; they may bring you momentary happiness, but it will not last.

While people can share in our happiness, they cannot will us to be a happy person – that only comes from within. When I began to consider those who gave me some small insight into the meaning of happiness, two people came to mind immediately, two people who in some way capture a feeling of happiness for me.

The first is a priest friend, a monk but not a religious fanatic. He has a wonderful presence, a beautiful peace, a serene face and an intoxicating laugh; when you leave him you are a better person for having been in his company. It is difficult to define but he makes you feel good about yourself and the world.

The second is a wonderful woman, Jane McKenna who, in spite of losing both her children and facing every mother’s nightmare, has such dignity and presence. She could be so unhappy with the world and bitter with people but she is the exact opposite. Anyone who has met her has been deeply inspired by her courage, presence and fortitude. While not wealthy in the material sense, she has wealth way beyond money.

I have read that you won’t always remember what a person said, how they looked or the circumstance in which you met them; what you will remember is how they made you feel.

I believe that happiness is an attitude. It is a certain way of looking at life. There are those whose company you long for because they are positive, funny and full of life. In fact they give you life. They have a way of looking at the world that is invigorating. Happiness is definitely an attitude and not just a set of circumstances. It is seeing the glass half full. It is trying to garner the best in any situation. It is being happy in your own skin. It is not comparing yourself to others; it is valuing your own uniqueness. It is a state that we all desire, that is not easy to attain and that is the most difficult to define.

You don’t always know you have been happy and it is only when you lose that happiness that you realise that you have glimpsed it. Patrick Kavanagh describes moments in life as ‘glimpses through the hedge’.  That is it. It may sound like a cliché but it is only when you lose that special thing that you realise how valuable it is. And so, when you lose your health, your perspective on life can change.

Happiness is doing something that you love to do because it promotes a feeling of well-being. It gives you a reason to get up in the morning, a feeling of goodness. Consider the opposite; just think of doing a job you hate, every day going to a place where you do not wish to be. It makes you depressed; it makes you sad and grumpy.

Happiness is being with friends, being with people you love. It gives you the feeling of being in harmony with the world. It is sharing happy times with those we love. When I was ill, my happiest moments were always the most simple. For me happiness was sharing time with friends, having a cup of coffee, sometimes outside in the sun. It was being with my family, sitting around the kitchen table chatting, laughing, just living moments, creating memories. It was walking along a beach staring at the expanse of ocean and trying to understand its vastness. It was walking in nature because nature to me is the door that creates peace in my inner sanctuary. Nature is all around us, it is always there to be enjoyed and it is free.

In conclusion, happiness is an inside job. It comes from deep within you.

The great essentials of happiness are,
something to do, something to love and something to hope for.
– Allan K. Chalmers

This is an extract from Not The Year You Had Planned, by Cathy McCarthy and published by Ashfield Press. This book, along with Cathy’s second book, are available to purchase on books.ie and Amazon and are €13 each. Proceeds go to various charities.

Happy Magazine would like to thank Cathy and her publisher for their gracious permission to re-publish this extract.

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