Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Happiness is the Absence of Unhappiness

Today I was on the way to a doctor’s appointment, feeling annoyed and anxious with a cranky baby and a gas tank on low. I stopped at the gas station and stood there with the pump in my hand thinking, “Man, this sucks.” Then I caught myself and asked, “Am I actually unhappy?”

Recalling a mindfulness meditation, I continued. “Am I breathing?” Yes. “Am I in any pain?” Nope. “Am I in any danger?” Not at all. “Have I lost anything important today?” Thankfully, no. And suddenly I was aware that I was, in fact, happy -- because the real definition of happiness is the absence of suffering or unhappiness.

Chances are, like me, you’re not in pain... you’re not in any current danger and you haven’t lost anything important today. (I’m assuming you’re still breathing if you’re reading this.) Consider the entire population of the world and what most people are dealing with, and I think we can agree - we've got it pretty good!

So then my mind started scrolling through what was going right today, and what I was enjoying. Standing there watching the traffic go by, I noticed:

  • It was a gorgeous day
  • The breeze felt lovely on my skin
  • My baby might be cranky, but he’s healthy
  • I am fortunate to have a car that runs well and the money to fill the tank

What a quick switch from annoyed to happy!

So are you happy?

Here’s a quick test. Ask yourself these questions:

are you breathing?

are you in pain?

are you in any danger?

have you lost anything or anyone today?

Simple as that. If you are in pain or danger or have lost something, then hang in there. Maybe try to help someone else feel better. But chances are, you just haven’t checked in yet to find out how happy you truly are.

I shared this blog entry with my friend, Megan (thanks for the free editing, Meg!) and this was her response:

“It's important to take stock and put things into perspective. I read somewhere once that we always seem to notice the red lights we hit, but we almost never go through a green light in a state of gratitude.”


Farty Girl said...

Great reminder!!!

When I am grumpy, I always remind myself of that Abraham Lincoln quote: "Most people are happy when they make up their minds to be."

This one you posted works even better. I look forward to using it. Well, actually, I don't... but you know what I mean! Ha! :)

Lindsay Satchell said...

Oh, that's a good one, too! I like it.

I can't take credit for the title quote. That would be Lama Marut - he rocks!

Iris said...

I liked this. I have a tendency to see the glass half empty and this was a great reminder that my glass is really pretty full.