It rained all day last Saturday. Rains make me lazy and gloomy. So I toodled through the day. In the evening, I stood at the window, watching the rain lash through the neighborhood.
The rain wet my spectacles and shirt. I don’t enjoy getting wet. But I stood at the window anyway. I hummed a few songs under my breath and sipped coffee while watching the rains.
After what seemed like a pleasant eternity, the clouds began to clear. Food delivery boys were riding on the street. And I felt grateful that I didn’t have to step out in that weather. Those boys also reminded me of people whose homes the rains ravage, whose roofs leak, whose walls collapse. For them, this rain was a nightmare.
I felt grateful for feeling safe and reached out to enter the moment in my diary. Each day, I jot down three tiny reasons to feel grateful. Since I had time, I leafed through the pages to read my previous entries. Here are some of those moments. (The text in brackets are the reasons why I felt grateful for them.)
23rd May 2020. Mom laughing herself silly while watching a movie on Amazon Prime. (AP doesn’t cost much, but those moments of happiness for my mom were priceless.)
15th April 2020. Sitting in the sunlight reading a book. (The morning sun rays land in my bedroom. Sitting in their path gives my body some essential Vitamin-D.)
2nd February 2020. Cried in front of my friend because the girl I hoped to marry rejected me. (The tears helped me let go of the pain instead of clinging on to it and feeling miserable.)
11th June 2019. Drank hot soup and snuggled into my warm bed yesterday. (It was a cold night and I wasn’t feeling well.)
“The very purpose of life is to be happy,” Dalai Lama XIV said. We agree. Everything we do is in the pursuit of happiness. We work hard to earn more. We spend time with people we love. We strive to achieve goals that’ll help us build a comfortable life.
These are important. But when we anchor our happiness to them, we create problems. We think we’ll be happy when we find the right partner, when we get promoted, when our work gets recognized, when we become rich and famous… the list goes on and on. The higher the stakes of the outcomes, the more we anchor our happiness to them.
The thing is, circumstances and outcomes lie outside our locus of control. We cannot control what happens to us. Often, things we wish for don’t come true. A handful of them come true long after we forget about them.
And what do we do? We turn sour. We get stuck in self-pity, try (and fail) to control the outcomes, and see the world as a dark, heartless place. We find fault even during pleasant moments. And this life — this wonderful, beautiful miracle we’re fortunate to experience — loses its value. Isn’t that a shame?
Happiness doesn’t lie in the big things.
It’s natural to want good things. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. (it’s always better to be sad in a BMW than on a bicycle.)
But hoping to be happy only when all the planets and stars align is like waiting for rain in the desert. Big things take time to work out. And much of what happens to us is a mixture of luck and who we are.
If I whine perpetually, I won’t find a partner I’m happy with. If I keep fighting for the limelight at work, I won’t be useful or grow. But if I’m happy by default, I play the best hand with the cards I get. And when life deals me amazing cards, I beat the house.
It takes little to be happy—as little as noticing and being grateful for tiny joys. A delicious lunch, a late-night chat with a friend, a good night’s sleep, a peaceful walk through the woods, not thinking twice before taking a second helping of food, a healthy family.
Gratitude makes you happier. It improves your mental and emotional health and strengthens you to handle tough situations. Plus, the happier you are, the more you open the door for pleasant experiences. You grow your skills at work and eventually become worthy of a promotion. You enjoy time with your partner which improves your relationship. Life becomes an experience you look forward to rather than an event you publicly criticize and secretly fear.
You don’t have to force yourself to be happy 24/7. You don’t have to live the “good-vibes-only” life. But you can find something that genuinely makes you feel happy from within.
I’ve witnessed a sea of change in myself after I began to note three tiny, specific things to feel grateful for. (I do it each morning.) You can experience this change too. Just feel grateful for the roses you smelt today. Reminding yourself of them alone will make you happy.
After all, the very purpose of life is to be happy.