Column by Author Katherine Gotthardt, M.Ed.

Column: Here's Your Chance to 'Get Happier, Dammit!'

If happiness were an orange tree

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What if you could enjoy each day a little more than you do now? You’d probably be happier, right? Most of us would be. But doesn’t something have to change to make it happen? Yes. But the route to greater happiness isn’t always as complicated as we believe it will be. Many times, it just takes effort and some realigning of the way we think.

What’s behind happiness?

If you read my book Get Happy, Dammit: Staying Inspired and Motivated in an Often-Unhappy World, you might recall I focus on the ways inspiration and motivation contribute to happiness and how we have the power to build our own happiness, however we define that. The book contains short chapters with stories and poetry, along with exercises I used in the adult education classroom and in my own life. The exercises do work (and the book won an award, which was also rather nice).

Just because the book was done didn’t mean I was prepared to stop studying happiness. There’s still too much to learn. But as with any learning, the way to understanding isn’t a straight path. There are twists and turns, rerouting and backtracking. So to change things up a bit, this time around, I thought it would be useful to hear more from readers and share their understanding of happiness, how it works and how we can all create more of it to enjoy higher quality of life.

Questioning happiness

Asking and answering questions is a classic method that supports learning and sharing new ideas. As a former community journalist and adult educator, I was comfortable with the approach. Want to gain new insights? Talk to people. Ask them about themselves, their lives, their experiences, what they think and why. Then listen to their answers. Truly listen, without interrupting, without judgment.   

This can be a difficult process for the person asking the questions and the person answering. We’re fortunate that members of the Get Happy, Dammit Facebook community offered to contribute their thoughts for this column: How do you define happiness? What do you do to create more of it in your life? Got any tips? We’re going to dive in, look at their responses, think about ways we can incorporate their ideas and see how we can build more happiness for ourselves and those around us.

Let’s start with reader Grace Joy Reid who answered the question, “If happiness were an object, what would it look like?”

Grace says, “If [happiness] could be a living thing, then [it] would be an orange tree. This orange tree would grow the best tasting oranges in the world from the Western part of the U.S. When you bite into it, it would refresh, not just your palate, but also your entire being. You could have this special orange tree in your backyard. You would need to take good care of your tree (i.e., sunshine, pruning, watering, fertilizing and harvesting.). You would reap the harvest of all of your hard work by eating your fresh oranges, bringing you joy and fresh orange juice!”

What a great way to explain what happiness means, how to grow it, how to experience it and even how to share it!

Grace’s words inspired me to pen this short poem:

If happiness were an orange tree,

would you pick a few fruits a day?

Or would one or two suffice,

each bite imparting lasting sweetness?

Would you know how to nurture your treasure,

when to water and prune it?

Would you need to protect it from predators?

Would the work be worth your while?

Take a small bite of the orange.

Now tell us –

What are its ripest secrets?

Want to contribute your own ideas? We’re open to hearing them! Request contribution guidelines by using the form on the Get Happy, Dammit website. In the meantime, here’s to your journey. Here’s to getting happier!

Award-winning author and poet Katherine Gotthardt is the author of nine books, including the Amazon #1 New Release, A Crane Named Steve. She uses proceeds from book sales to support local non-profits and community initiatives serving the disadvantaged. Gotthardt is a founding member and current president of Write by the Rails, the Prince William Chapter of the Virginia Writers Club. Learn more at www.KatherineGotthardt.com.

This article is not meant to treat depression or mental illness . Those suffering from depression, anxiety or mental illness should seek professional medical help.  

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