A friend tells me that Oprah will feature a quiz today to determine if we are happy. The radio also announces a seminar I can pay for that will help me realize whether I'm happy. I also learn from a blog reader that certain countries actually try to measure the happiness of citizens.
How would we know? What tool can measure it?
All morning, I wonder how we know if we're happy. I ask my husband, and he answers that he knows he's happy when he feels connected to God. I nod, realizing the truth of that one word: connected.
What if we measured happiness by how connected we felt to ourselves, to God, and to others?
As somehow who felt deeply unhappy for so many years, I evaluated what contributed most to that state. Indeed--and not to simplify mood disorders--my unhappiness related directly to disconnection. I lost connection to my true self. I wasn't relating to God, and I wasn't in vibrant community. Unhappy people often describe their profound loneliness. They experience isolation and a fractured sense of self.
My journey to discover lasting happiness began with discovering myself and who God made me to be. I learned to put boundaries between myself and oppressive, toxic environments or people who couldn't celebrate or encourage the true me. I learned to connect with God authentically--not with a false self that performed some religious ritual--but by radical honesty, frailty, and need. I embraced my weaknesses, delighting in failure because it opened the door to grace.
In the midst of this journey, I devoted myself to building community wherever and however I could. Maybe it was a walk-to-school campaign to connect with neighbors or a Fitness Group to love the children. Maybe it was a potluck dinner or a pancake breakfast with the family down the street.
Why does that freezing walk to school increase my happiness every day?
My well-being depends upon connection. I have to invite folks in, enter into their story as well, and realize we belong to each other.
I also learned the forms of counterfeit connection. Fame, prestige, and wealth create illusions of happiness, but they fail to ever fulfill the heart's true cry for belonging. I'd rather walk the children to school than be on Oprah today (unless, of course, we were all there together). Or, better, Oprah could come to us.
I guess I've learned that even though fleeting moments of attention seem like fun (Oprah would be fun!), they really don't contribute to our lasting well-being. And even when I have lots of cash in my pocket, it doesn't connect me with anyone. It just gives me something to buy that can't love me back.
I've been happy for many years now. It's connection. And I didn't realize it until this morning.
Journal: Is happiness directly related to my connection to myself, God, and others? If one of these relationships suffer, does it contribution to unhappiness?