Social media isn’t often the first place you look for a sense of a joy or happiness. But I do, on Instagram specifically, and because of one account in particular: @ameliakyoga. Amelia posts some amazingly inspirational stuff, yes, but the reality is that it’s not Amelia that has me coming back to her feed, it is her two-year-old daughter, Lily. This beautiful little girl—through the posts her mama shares on Instagram—has taught me much about how to be happy, and what it means to be happy.
Lily’s mantra is “Happy, Happy, Happy,” and, according to her mom, these were some of her first words. (And if you check out her feed, you can certainly see a baby in a high chair proclaiming to the world that she is, in fact, “happy, happy, happy.”)
This child inspires me so much simply because she finds her happiness and contentment in so many things: Eating her breakfast, helping her mommy make hummus, playing in the snow or paddling in the river. Discovering the fun of running down a hill with no concept that she could fall and injure herself. Lily’s ability to live in the present moment, with innocence and trust, is a valuable lesson as we consider what it means to be happy, content.
As grown-up adults, we often claim to be happy, but not too many people go around shouting about how happy they are — and this is because it is not something that comes naturally. It needs to be cultivated, it is a work in progress and a discipline that has to be developed. And maybe it’s not so much about being happy, but being content. As the Dalai Lama puts it: “In order to be happy, we must first possess inner contentment, and inner contentment does not come from having all we want, but rather from wanting and appreciating being grateful for all we have.”
So often we are called upon to practice gratitude in our search for happiness, and so often are we only ever really grateful for the good things in our life. It is not often that we celebrate the tough days and the challenges. If I were to empty my gratitude jar right now, I would be giving thanks for such things as a beautiful sunset, the little birds that visit my garden to feed, a gesture from a friend, the love of my husband. But let’s face it: We all have days that are just awful. The days when you constantly get in your own way, and everything just irritates the life out of you. You find yourself constantly complaining to yourself and to everyone around you about everything.
But if we were to take a cue from the Dalai Lama, the guidance would be to reverse your thinking. Be thankful that you have a partner to share your life with; many people spend their lives alone. Be happy that it is raining; the alternative is drought and we all know how that ends. You get where I am going with this. No matter how miserable a situation is, no matter how tough a challenge, there will always be a bright side, you just have to look for it.
Case in point: Almost two years ago, I was in a car accident. Wracked with pain, I was unable to work for a year and a half, and, as a result, I was made redundant from my corporate role of 17 years. One would assume this time would be a stressful, scary and unhappy time in my life. I am happy to report, however, that that is not the case. This time has given me the unexpected opportunity to re-evaluate my life, to consider who I am, what I want and where I want to be. I realized that I can devote my days to pursuing my passion for writing, and that I can earn a living reaching out and empowering my fellow Fibro warriors. It turns out that finally — when I have the least amount of money I’ve ever had, when I am experiencing more insecurity and pain than ever before — I am content with what I have.
In the words of the darling little Lily, “I am Happy, Happy, Happy.”
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