I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness. I took a college class a few years ago on the Psychology of Happiness, and it has interested me ever since.

I would say, that in general, I’m a happy person. Everyone has their moments of course, but happy is the happiest way to be. (also, happy is a weird word. Just say it to yourself a couple of times and then you’ll look over your shoulder, slightly embarrassed and wondering if you’re crazy because obviously, you’ve been saying that word wrong for forever. Such a weird sounding word can’t really mean something so big and life altering. But I think it does.)

I have decided that happiness is a learning process, and I learned something new today so I wanted to write about it. My disclaimer is this: Even happy people will sometimes be sad. They will sometimes feel stress and anxiety and even fear of an uncertain future. But they will come through it because they know there is something greater out there. (Also, a disclaimer to my disclaimer just in case: I’m not talking about clinical depression or anxiety, there are cases like that out there and I’m not trying to lesson those in any way. BUT I think that even with those things, people are seeking happiness and so don’t stop seeking!)

Now I want you to look out at the world, the radio shows, news reports, popular books, magazines, conversations with friends. I bet that somewhere in your moments of musing, you can come up with some recent mention of lack of happiness. News stories start because someone wasn’t happy with their life. New and popular books give you formula’s to happiness. People who have all the attention, all the money and all the things you could ever want, still complain about being happy. I know that I’ve complained before. (and obviously I don’t have everything, see, still complaining!)

Well today I was on Pinterest, I was looking at the recent things I’ve pinned and I focused on how many of them were about happiness. Like I said, it’s something that has been on my mind lately. Another thing that is never far from my mind is my mom. My dad too, but in this case, it’s my mom I’ve been thinking a lot about. Let me tell you a little bit about her and then we’ll go back to talking about happiness.

My cute little mom and with my niece, Emily

My mom had a million friends. Probably more because she talked to everyone she met-even people she never met! In elementary school they had a pen pal and she was given the names of three from different parts of the world to write. I remember the stories she told me about two of them. One lived somewhere in England and they wrote to each other well into high school. When Queen Elizabeth was coroneted that pen pal sent my mom a handkerchief to commemorate the event. One pen pal was from Australia and sent her books and other mementos over the years. They kept in contact, although less and less, but they told each other about their families and sent pictures.

Here at home, mom had just as powerful of friendships. When my nephew and I were in Jr High, we went to dinner with my mom and some of the friends she had kept in touch with since high school. My nephew and I choose not to sit at the table with the ‘old people’ because they were so loud, laughing, and embarrassing that we wanted it to be known we were separate. They sat at dinner for nearly 3 hours, talking and laughing and just having so much fun. I envied those friendships, that after nearly 50 years, were still meaningful to my mom and my dad, her friends and their spouses as well.

When my mom got sick last year, I was given the task of going through her phone book (Which requires a Rosetta stone for translation purposes) and calling all the important people in her life. I eventually had to share the task with some of my siblings as well because it was simply too overwhelming to try to call everyone who wanted to know. But the thing was, as we talked to all those people, almost all of them had talked to my mom within the previous month. These were not just family members, although many of them were. But they were her friends from high school, they were some of MY friends from high school, an old neighbors son, her AVON customers through the years. The spouses of my dad’s old co-workers. When I told my mom about who I talked to, she knew about the things that were going on in each person’s life. Her old Senior Class President was a Patriarch who was caring for his wife with Alztimers, an AVON customer who had just gone through a divorce, a cousin who had been lost for years that she had found with $20 and a PI company out of California. Even the kids of her dad’s old friend living in Oregon. She knew them all, they had all talked to her about their problems just days before and none of them could believe that she was dying of a brain tumor.

Mom with the Bachelor-her favorite show for some reason

I’m not saying this all because I’m trying to point out how great she was (although she was!) but just because these were things I had not fully realized about my mom and I’m even just now realizing. By my view point, my mom had every reason to be unhappy. She had lived for over 10 years with painful Rheumatoid Arthritis, my dad and her husband of over 50 years had suffered with MS for nearly as long as they had been together. My mom loved to go and see and do things, but because of her health limitations, many time she couldn’t do what she wanted. She could have been very unhappy. But she was not! And she was a major factor of brightness and happiness in the lives of others. So as I read all these Pinterest quotes on happiness, I thought of my mom and I thought of two things:

1. Often, doing something [that seems] small for someone else will make YOU feel happier than doing something big for yourself.

2. My mom was the kind of person who when the world said, “Remember, to take time for yourself” she would take that time and go do something for someone else.

So I have to conclude that while the world will tell you that your happiness depends on what you get from someone else, it is wrong. It is what you give to someone else that makes you truly happy.

All those number one selling books on happiness out there will tell you that happiness is mostly a choice that you make. And they are right. But it a choice that you make for others that really makes you happy.

I know that when I am not happy in life, I can look at myself and realize that it is something that I am not doing. Something that I am not choosing. And when I choose happiness, it makes all the difference in my day. Remember my Disclaimer? (My disclaimer is this: Even happy people will sometimes be sad. They will sometimes feel stress and anxiety and even fear of an uncertain future. But they will come through it because they know there is something greater out there.) This is what I want to add to that. Do not let sadness, stress, anxiety, fear, frustration, anger or pride keep you from being happy. Do not use it as an excuse. Find a way to be happy. That is my new goal. I bet you’d be happy if that was your goal too.