Three things that make you happy

Recently, yes, again, I was part of another discussion regarding happiness.  It revolved around the three things that make would make you happy.

Happiness can be at the bottom of your cereal… Image Source.

The friend that I was having this discussion with is a gruff, older man, who loves his hard rock and melodies.  You can find him sitting on a bar stool, or outside smoking, but I can guarantee that if there is a rock song playing, he’s singing along to it.  He will be belting every line, every guttural low, and every high pitched wail; all while playing air guitar.  It’s pretty awesome to watch.  And don’t mistake this guy for an amateur, he can play a damn good set of strings.

He and I tend to get into many conversations, from Cthulhu to Politics, from Weather to Music; anything goes with this guy.

This made me chuckle because of my header image. Source.

Aside from all the Cereal commentary that I’m making so far today, I posed the following question to him:

What makes you happy?  What, if you had only three things to make you happy, would make you so?

Of course, his sense of humor kicked in and without hesitation, he replied the following:

1.  Beer.
2. Tacos (writers note, to make this somewhat appropriate, he’s not talking about food.)
3.  My Guitar.

Aside from much laughter with all of those around due to his, uh, phrasing of his second answer; I quickly asked him if he would be happy with those three answers in 5 years, or ten years.  His reply was along the lines of “I’ll probably need more beer and will have to average those three out.”

Unfortunately, we couldn’t continue this conversation as it was getting late; but it got me thinking what makes myself happy.  I enjoy a multitude of activities like playing my guitar, video games, and spending time with my family and friends.  Reading and writing are up there as well.

Personally, the most concrete belief structure, or religion in my opinion, is Buddhism.  And happiness plays a very large role in it.

Happiness forms a central theme of Buddhist teachings. For ultimate freedom from suffering, the Noble Eightfold Path leads its practitioner to Nirvana, a state of everlasting peace. Ultimate happiness is only achieved by overcoming craving in all forms. More mundane forms of happiness, such as acquiring wealth and maintaining good friendships, are also recognized as worthy goals for lay people (see sukha). Buddhism also encourages the generation of loving kindness and compassion, the desire for the happiness and welfare of all beings.  Source.

While I enjoy getting the newest video game system, buying a new guitar, or spending time with all of my friends; I question if I actually am truly happy.  It’s not a question of if the material possessions that I have make me happy, as they do, but that’s not true happiness; it’s temporary.

An interesting paragraph and chart that I found on Wikipedia (here, and below) raised more questions for me.

Psychologist Martin Seligman asserts that happiness is not solely derived from external, momentary pleasures, and provides the acronym PERMA to summarize Positive Psychology’s correlational findings: humans seem happiest when they have

  1. Pleasure (tasty food, warm baths, etc.),

  2. Engagement (or flow, the absorption of an enjoyed yet challenging activity),

  3. Relationships (social ties have turned out to be extremely reliable indicator of happiness),

  4. Meaning (a perceived quest or belonging to something bigger), and

  5. Accomplishments (having realized tangible goals).

While four of those five are very easily attainable, I’m sure that we all constantly question number four, Meaning.  Many have sought the answer to this, what is the meaning of life?  Why am I here?  Perhaps the answer to this question will quell the long term feeling of true happiness for me.

Honestly, I couldn’t name three ultimate items, that five or ten years down the line would still be the same.  I can tell you that a positive relationship and maintaining it would be one.  And that’s about it.

Recently, I watched the “Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” and while I’m not much of a Ben Stiller fan, I very much enjoyed the movie.  It was a tad slow in the beginning, but I connected with the main character quite a bit.  I work day in and day out, I don’t adventure much, and lead a pretty stable day to day process.  One interaction in the movie really hit me:

Walter Mitty: When are you going to take it?
Sean O’Connell: Sometimes I don’t. If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.
Walter Mitty: Stay in it?
Sean O’Connell: Yeah. Right there. Right here.
Sometimes, quite possibly, just being in the moment is the true happiness that we’re looking for.
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