For years, I searched far and wide for happiness.
The greatest poets and creative people have spoken of it as an illusion or the ultimate tease, being short-lived and unfulfilling. Walt Disney claimed it’s the way one looks at things. William Shakespeare referred to it as good friends. AA Milne, who wrote Winnie the Pooh, referred to it as the secret to all beauty. For many, it comes in four states of being, which I believe could be seen as four seasons: euphoria, bliss, joy, and contentment.
Euphoria: where everything seems to be floating and unreal, your senses are overcome much like in spring.
Bliss: where everything seems almost too perfect to be true. Your body and heart are one, much like in summer.
Joy: where everything still seems beautiful, just like the colours of autumn.
Contentment: where you hold on to the other three, but will have to do with the warmth provided, much like in winter.
But, what does it mean to me? Because that’s what Incitement is about: my story, our story. (For more on Incitement SA, see my previous article: There is HOPE!)
My seasonal journey with happiness has been complex, sometimes raining with splendor, other times hard to harvest.
I first discovered it as a small child from simple things: setting dragonflies and butterflies free in the kitchen, catching grasshoppers in the garden and feeling them tickle my skin, watching my parents kiss, playing with Barbies for hours on end. Yes, I’ve always been a romantic and that is where my disillusionment with happiness was born.
This is quite personal, but I believe many of us have been through it…
As someone who struggled with clinical depression for almost ten years, I am finally free of it. No, it was not through fancy medication or hours at the psychiatrist. If anything, those things worsened my state of being. The meds poisoned my body, to the verge of becoming a diabetic and the shrink poisoned my soul by opening old wounds. I had forgiven. I didn’t need to be reminded of my past regrets and hurt.
Happiness is the ability to balance what you have with what you need, appreciating those special moments. I learnt this best as a preschool teacher. Children have the ability to be creative, even when their little heads and hearts are in disjoint. A child will continue to smile, even if things at home aren’t easy. They believe in the power of daily life – every day is a magical reason to wake up, discover your surroundings and explore your needs.
As adults, we forget the essence of imagination. We forget to discover daily power and magic. We keep diaries of our daily struggles, instead of your daily triumphs. And we forget to spend time with children, who teach us to see through new eyes. I’ve always believed children are the world’s greatest teachers.
I discovered a whole new world as a preschool teacher: one where killed spiders are given funerals, where storms are caused by an angry creator and where friendship is about listening and sharing, even if that means your favourite sandwich.
Children, not pills, healed my heartache. Originally, I studied journalism. I was determined to become a war photographer. But teaching taught me to focus on life, rather than death. And the war within myself was finally put to rest. So the trick is to BELIEVE, in yourself, in your dreams, in others, in their dreams. Clichéd but true: what a difference this makes.
For the parents out there, I urge you to write down the beautiful things you witness on a daily basis with your child. Get involved with your child’s preschool: “What did he/ she get up to today?”
Happiness is obeying your bliss, even if it comes from ridiculous sounding things like a fresh smoothie, a yoga session you’ve been avoiding or an afternoon in the botanical gardens. Unhappy people are those that don’t know what they want out of life. They have little focus on where they are going. They keep looking back on past mistakes, instead of embracing today’s beauty. Every sunset should be seen as unique. Every stranger on the street has a story to share.
These are my tips for a state of happiness every day:
- Start a random conversation with a stranger, such as a person who sells you a newspaper, hands out a flyer. If everyone listened with more patience, we’d have more interesting days.
- Put away your phone and Facebook for a whole day. Make face-to-face conversation with a person you haven’t seen in a long time. The power of touch is one which can heal.
- Listen to the way a small child speaks to their pet. If everyone spoke with such kindness, we’d have many more friends.
- Draw. Paint. Sing. Dance. Do something you normally never have time to do, yet enjoy. It will rejuvenate your soul.
- Arrange a coffee-date with your parents and grandparents. Listen to stories of their youth and their search for happiness before it’s too late.
- Hold your pet for a good hour, cuddle it… That is the only creature that never judges you, criticizes you; despite giving it the same food every day and the same lame excuse “I’ll play with you tomorrow”.
- Fall in love with your life again… Seek that dream job and those fun friends. Reawaken your inner being. A wise friend once told me: “Don’t walk away from negativity. RUN AS FAST AS YOU CAN!”
- Meditate on the previous seasons.
Happiness should never be searched for. That goes against its aim. It finds you when you least expect it, much like love and peace. And I do believe those three work hand-in-hand. You cannot be truly happy without love or peace. And what is love or peace without happiness? Go on then, dream some more. Live for eternity.