But how is that possible? Our culture is dedicated to the pursuit of happiness. That happiness, as we see reflected in the media, means that you are young (or young-looking), with a slim, attractive body, and enough money to do as you like. We might add criteria for further happiness, like fame, a good education, a loving partner, obedient children, and a beautiful home.
We ignore the signs that our cherished celebrities, those who supposedly have it all, aren’t quite as happy as they might be. Dramatic breakups, drug abuse, and flamboyant spending are the realm of those who are obviously spoiled, or ungrateful, or Doing It Wrong. If we had those resources, we vow, we would live life to the fullest.
Why wait? Why devote yourself to the endless pursuit of happiness? Why not just welcome it into your life, right now, as you are? You don’t need to wait until you are thin, rich, and young to be truly happy.
I know this from experience. I have a fantastic life that I truly enjoy. I am a happy person, which has come from learning to let myself be joyful no matter the circumstances. You can, too.
You long to be rich? Most of us already live like the queens and kings of past eras. Stop and look around you. If you’re reading this blog, chances are you own an electronic device that puts the vast knowledge of hundreds of libraries full of books right here at your fingertips, along with music and art and calculators and maps. You probably have plenty to eat, clean water to drink, electricity, and a warm home to live in. You are clothed, you have transportation, and you likely even have access to health care when you need it. Chances are good that you have friends and family members who love you and care deeply about your well-being.
When you shift your attention from what is missing in your life to the blessings all around you, you are better able to feel happy and thankful. You can see how wealthy you truly are, right now, in this moment.
You want to be thin and beautiful? Our narrow view of what constitutes healthy and beautiful have been heavily conditioned by mass media. Think about those in your life who you love deeply. Picture them smiling and doing something they enjoy. Are they beautiful to you? Of course they are. Do they fit the stereotype of western beauty at this time in our history? Maybe so, maybe not.
Beauty truly does come from within. It’s often easier to see that in others than it is in ourselves.
Try shifting your view to that of health. Think about the ways you are already healthy. Our tendency is to focus on our own perceived flaws and lacks. Instead, make a list of the beautiful health you now embody. Admire the way your legs carry you uncomplainingly on walks through the woods or along the beach. Smile in the mirror, and appreciate your sparkling eyes. Enjoy the way your hands can adeptly caress your lover, cook a delicious meal, and comfort a crying child. Begin to explore and encourage self-love, which is an essential part of a healthy psyche.
Pining for your youth? Is this a real impulse, or another culturally-conditioned response? We are taught that being young is ideal, and that nostalgia for those “glory days” is normal. But was it really a better time, or are you conveniently forgetting the struggles and worries that went along with the triumphs? Make a conscious choice to change your view, and to decide that the best time in your life is right here, right now.
Delight in the wisdom you’ve gained over your lifetime so far, in knowing that there is still so much more to learn and experience, and in the exploration of who you truly are.
You don’t need to be rich, thin, young, or fulfill any other arbitrary criteria, in order to be happy. Dive deeply into the life that you are living right now. Be grateful for your blessings, cherish your friends and family, do the things you love to do, and share your gifts and talents with the world. Living purposefully from right where you are will allow your innate happiness to expand and flourish. Shut off the mainstream media and be uniquely yourself.
You’ll be amazed at how you shine.