Creating happiness

Happiness is a funny thing. It seems so eternally elusive to most people, and yet is usually so easily attainable.

I was thinking about this the other day, as I was driving home from working a near-minimum-wage shift in a local retail store, smiling, feeling utterly content. We all have ups and downs, of course, but on a daily average I’d say I feel happier now than I have been at any point in my past. This, despite that I’m also probably poorer now, struggling more financially, than I ever have been in my past. D and I live without a lot of luxuries, don’t eat out, rarely go see movies or attractions, don’t have cell phones or other technological gadgets.

In our first-world society we have a tendency to equate wealth – financial and/or material – with happiness. Without it we feel like we’re being deprived of things. And I won’t lie, I do sometimes feel that way. I’d love to be able to buy myself all the books on my to-read list, or plants for my garden, or even simply a new pair of hiking shoes when mine start getting worn.

But I’m not unhappy despite my inability to afford everything I’d like. And I attribute this to two things. First is that I spend a lot of my day doing things I enjoy. I write. I read. I walk with my dogs. I have tv shows I follow and love. I follow a great, friendly writing community. In the summer I garden, or nature-watch, or other pastimes/hobbies I enjoy. Not to mention living with a person and pets I love. Yes, I also spend some of my time doing stuff I’m not as crazy about: chores, work. But I’ve chosen to work fewer hours, make less money, and live more simply, so I can spend more time doing the things I want to be doing.

And the second thing is I’m using some of that freed time to pursue one of those things I love – writing – and work at it enough, practice it enough, become good enough at it, to turn it into a source of income. And I am in control of my destiny here: if I put in the work, if I constantly strive to improve, and I keep sending my stuff out into the industry, I know eventually someone will want to pay me for it. It’s just a matter of time. And I’m a patient person.

And so I’m happy. I spend my days doing things that I love, with a focus on a particular something that I love, and a feeling of making progress toward something I want. The proximity of the finish line isn’t important – I’m headed there, and I’m enjoying the drive.

Happiness isn’t about what we do with our money; it’s about what we do with our time. Time is a finite resource just like wealth. Make sure you spend yours on the things you love.

ETA: More thoughts on creating happiness, while I was making dinner:

Happiness is partly a mindset. It’s about learning to live more simply and enjoy simply living. It’s about learning to enjoy life’s smaller pleasures, and learning not to fret over life’s smaller problems. Learning to put yourself first, doing what you want to do, not what others want or expect you to do. To enjoy what you have, not yearn for what you don’t. To appreciate what’s given to you, not resent what’s withheld. To see change as opened windows, not closed doors. It’s about learning to work hard for the future, but be content with the present.

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4 responses to “Creating happiness

  1. Congratulations! It sounds like you’ve worked out what you need. My husband and I are still working towards that a bit. Part of what we need, we’ve decided, is a financially stable future, so we are working toward that too. (But I’m pretty sure your country is better about taking care of it’s retirees). I’d be very stressed out without it, and that’s not relaxing at all. We both have jobs that we like alright and people we really like working with (which makes it way better than most). And we both could have better jobs if we wanted to make ourselves more miserable. Definitely not worth it.

    Well, that got a bit too in depth too quick, but congrats, Seabrooke. That’s wonderful. It sounds like you have a great life that suits you perfectly. And I’m sure it took a little while to get there too. Sometimes the simplest things still take work.

    • Thanks, Sarah. It took a long while to reach this point, and it wasn’t something I did by design. If I’d planned it I’d certainly rather go for the solid income! But it didn’t happen that way and it turned out I was perfectly okay with that. The whole happiness thing was the result of wondering why I felt so happy despite this hardship, when others I know in similar positions are so unhappy.

      It’s true that Canada’s probably a better place to live poor than the US, if for no other reason than our health care system means you don’t have to worry about accidents or falling ill. And I also agree, some people are just better able to manage the uncertainty of a low income. My point wasn’t that everyone should all quit their day jobs and work part-time, but that we should strive to find work doing something we enjoy, as much as we can, rather than working just for the sake of money (like: if you don’t like working with people don’t become a doctor just because it makes lots of money; and vice versa, don’t avoid a profession you’d love just because it doesn’t). And what time remains to us we should spend doing things we love and pursuing goals that matter to us rather than doing things because they are expected of us or we feel we should.

  2. Pingback: Link Share: Happiness, Doing Less, Nature | At the Edge of the Ordinary

  3. Hi Seabrooke! Just reading through some of your archives as I am working on a Middle Grade story and enjoy all the tips you share. Must say, I appreciate you underlining the difference between having stuff and being happy. I’ve chosen a mid-life career change that might bring me less income but is bringing me more happiness. Great reminder!

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