Are you ready to think some more about happiness? In the first installment of the “Get Happier, Dammit” series, we looked at the definition of happiness – what it could be, what it might look like. We talked a little about the book that launched this column and how to move on from there.
That book, Get Happy, Dammit, was not an easy one to write. Though it was based on exercises I’d used in the classroom and in life, the premise was a little more complicated. The idea that staying inspired and motivated can bring greater happiness took center stage. So did the idea that building happiness takes work. But many people think, nah. “I don’t want to ‘work’ on getting happier. If I have to work at it, then I’m not happy.”
That’s okay. Believing in the importance of building personal happiness isn’t a moral mandate. What’s interesting, however, is that the happiest people I run into have put effort into creating it. Perhaps they didn’t know at the time that what they were doing was building happiness. But as they went on, they realized the results of their efforts were leading them in that direction.
Zach Tamer is one of these inspiring people whose life has become increasingly happy because of his efforts. Zach says, “Happiness is very important to me in my daily life. I would rate it as a 10 out of 10... I feel that if I am not happy, then my daily life suffers and if that unhappiness seeps into each day of my life, then my overall quality of life suffers, not only for me but for those around me.”
This idea may resonate with you. So might Zach’s journey.
Like most of us, Zach has not always had an easy life. He had to work at building his own happiness. But he also believes it’s important work. Zach shares a little bit of his story:
There was a time in my life when I was down on my luck, eating macaroni and cheese, hotdogs, and ramen for every meal for about six months. I had an apartment but didn’t have any furniture and was sleeping on floor. I knew that just having that roof and having some food was more than some and that helped me to stay positive and understand the importance of having a roof over your head and food on the table. It also gave me a new found appreciation for everything this world holds.
I also spent much of my time during that six-month period standing outside at 5 a.m. hoping to get picked up by one of the trucks that came by looking for day labor. Each morning was spent with people from all walks of life, from different parts of the world, who had different world views and experiences. Those mornings taught me a lot about humanity and that experiences, communication and sharing life’s experiences with others, good and bad, brought me happiness.
Zach has turned his experiences into something positive. Not only has he built a happier life, but as a writer giving back to the community, he creates greater happiness for others, too.
Zach is a role model for those who believe nurturing happiness is possible and important. So assuming you do want to grow happiness in your own life (and have it spill into the lives of others!) what do you do?
First, answer these questions as honestly as you can. How important is happiness to you? And if it is important, how much conscious effort are you willing to put into building it?
There is no wrong answer to these questions. But if you do want to consciously create more happiness in your own life, I’d suggest moving on to these next questions: How do you define happiness? Is it a fleeting feeling? Is it long-lasting contentment? Something else? And what drives you? What brings you feelings of satisfaction?
Answering the questions will take time. And what you answer today might not be what you answer later – in the day, in the week, in the year, in the decade. This is why building personal happiness is a journey. As Zach demonstrates, it’s not always an easy one, either. But if you believe in its importance, the work is satisfying.
That garden you decided to plant?
How it took time to turn over the soil,
get past the sweat, that insistent dust
settling on your white sneakers. You cussed.
Later you’d take that first bite of cucumber,
squirting refreshment from summer rains,
several thick slices inviting another serving.
It felt a little like happiness.
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. Her book Get Happy Dammit: Staying Inspired and Motivated in an Often-Unhappy World won a Silver Award from the Nonfiction Authors Association. Gotthardt uses proceeds from book sales to support local non-profits and community initiatives serving the disadvantaged. 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.