I woke, yesterday morning, feeling bad-tempered. This is a rare occurrence and is almost always a result of my husband’s snoring! There’s something deeply offensive about lying next to someone whose somnolence – loudly and bed-tremblingly declared – is the sole reason for your inability to sleep. Don’t you think?
A Feeling of Contentment was Markedly Absent
But that wasn’t the only reason I felt bad-tempered. Truth be told, I went to bed feeling ever so slightly irritable – partly because the seams of my favourite jeans have parted company; partly because A1 vision in threading a needle to mend them is now something I can no longer take for granted; and mainly because I’m dieting! So, you can understand, I’m sure, that the addition of sleep deprivation meant that any feeling of contentment was conspicuously absent. Never mind the bad tempered ladybird story: I felt distinctly waspish.
Finding an Appreciation in the Finer Things of Life
My mood was quickly dispersed, however, when I drew back the curtains. A silver sky embossed with deep purple, blushed, unhurriedly, to a gentle rose pink. You couldn’t help but be infused with an aesthetic appreciation of nature and all things creative.
I wrote, recently about how we, in the Western world humorously define happiness as sex or chocolate. But between the American Thanksgiving celebration and the Christmas holiday that follows, I’ve found that new definitions have been thrown up in a kaleidoscope of website wisdom and internet intellect. Overwhelmingly, the advice is that money can’t buy you happiness. So, once again – as someone with an abiding contentment in life – I find myself not only trying to define happiness, but to capture and convey its elusive qualities.
And this is what I’ve come up with:
- Religion: Most of the religious systems of the world teach the need for contentment, but many rely on self-imposed regimes. Denial is one – to achieve a state of nothingness. The development of acclamation and habits is another – to convince oneself of a sense of well-being.
- Communism: Karl Marx, credited as being the founder of Communism, stated that “religion is the opiate of the people.” To which I would respond: Can numbness equate to happiness?
- Psychiatry and Philosophy: Both recognise the benefits of happiness to the human psyche but rely on learned techniques to achieve changes in behaviour – and often fail to impart the principles in an enduring manner.
- Medicine: Medics, too, subscribe to a belief in the physical and mental advantages to be found in emotional equilibrium, but often create reliance on pills.
- Governments and Commerce: Intent on encouraging prosperity for Western societies, both encourage a belief in materialism and consumerism as the means to happiness.
Beliefs, Values, and Feelings
What strikes me about this list is that almost all rely on an outward expression of their own beliefs, values, and feelings. They demand action on the part of human beings: either through denial of needs, or indulgence in wants.
Happiness, in my view, is an inner state of mind which is not, necessarily, dependent upon circumstances, any premeditated action on my part, or on the behaviour of others. Yet it is, above all, a response. And at the time of year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it’s a good moment to reflect on what it is we’re responding to.
- Happiness is the grateful acceptance of the Christmas Gift.
- It’s the recognition that we none of us deserve to be treated to this Gift.
- It’s the acknowledgement that though the Gift is priceless, that price has already been paid.
- It’s having the grace to receive with open hands and hearts.
- It’s the certainty of knowing that however unlovely you may be, you’re loved by God, if by no one else.
- It’s the assurance of feeling valued – not for what you do, but for who you are.
- It’s the joyful, spontaneous welling up of love for all you’ve received
- It’s an impulsive and inexhaustible appreciation of all that the Creator has created.
- It’s an overwhelming urge to give – out of the abundance of what you’ve received.
- What would you like to add here?
PS: If the above is not your experience, find someone for whom it is, and attach yourself to that person!
Mel’s latest book, PICKED FOR A PURPOSE: Bearing fruit in times of hardship, deals with mental issues. All proceeds from sales are for The Prince’s Trust, a charity empowering young people.