What You Need to Be Happy

Are you one of the many who was dreaming of the billion dollar Powerball payoff? Were you thinking about what a life of ease and luxury you would have if you had the money? All your problems would be solved.

Or would they?

In a University of Illinois study they found that those making more than $10 million annually were only a bit happier than their employees. Here in Cabo San Lucas there are multimillionaires and those who are living in plywood housing. In my experience during my time in Mexico, those with money complain and are unhappy. Those living with bare necessities are happy, always sharing a warm caring genuine smile.

So if money doesn’t buy happiness, what does?

I know it is easy to focus on buying the next big thing, changing jobs, or even moving in the hopes it will bring the happiness you desire. Changing the exterior is easy. Unfortunately to find true happiness, it is necessary to change our interior.

Santa in Ernesto’s barrio this last Christmas

When I am allowing myself to have a bad day, I think of Ernesto a gardener here in the development where I live. I have seen where Ernesto lives. He and his family have recently moved up from temporary housing to actually having four cement walls and a roof. He now has running water, although it is unheated except by the sun. To get to work he has to walk own a dirt road to catch a bus and then walks a mile and a half up a mountain to his job. After toiling in the hot sun all day, he has to again walk down to the bus stop, wait for his bus, and walk up the dirt road to his home. Instead of using his situation to complain about his lot and the injustice, Ernesto is a genuinely happy man. His smile and joyful eyes are so endearing every time we meet. I do not pity him for his situation, but instead I am envious of his constant happiness.

Next time you are having a bad day, next time you are complaining over not having as much as someone else, next time you are angry about first world problems like cable internet only working in one of your rooms or a long line at Starbucks, think of Ernesto and find your own inner happiness.

Here are a few things I see in Ernesto which I use to create happiness from the inside out.

Let Go of the Stuff: Early in our marriage, I enjoyed going to estate sales and antique stores to collect vintage items with my husband. When we moved, it was difficult to sell or donate all we had collected because of the investment we had made financially and emotionally. But almost immediately after moving into our new residence, I found I didn’t miss any of it. Ok, honestly on occasions I’ll think of something we had to get rid of but I think of it with sentimental memories not with a desire for replacement or a feeling of loss. The only things I truly missed are practical items like a garlic press, which can easily be replaced. How much time and money are you spending acquiring things? Do you find that once you have one thing it leads to a need for more? For instance, having the new Xbox is not enough; it is also necessary to buy game after game after game. How much of your life is focused on things versus people or experiences? When you can be free of the things you can see what it is truly like to live happily.

Be Ok With What You Have: Unhappiness stems from a feeling of lack. It comes from the feeling that how you live or who you are is not enough. There is always someone with more – or less – than you. Comparing ourselves to others is always a cause for pain. When we compare we are actually only seeing a slice of the other person; we often do not see them entirely or how they live. We are thinking ourselves as less than based on only one or two conditions. Everyone is unique and needs to be accepted as much. Truly accept yourself and your circumstances. Acceptance equals peace. It would be so easy for Ernesto to be jealous of those living in the grand homes where he works, but I don’t believe the thought enters his mind. In many ways he is stronger than the grandest CEO because he is content with who he is.

Be in the Present: When we are not surrounded by “stuff,” it is easier to focus on this very moment. The commodity Ernesto has is not money or what he owns, but presence and connection. He does not have much in the way of things, so he makes the most out of experiencing every moment. Stop replaying the tapes of when you had a loss. Stop living in the future hopes of what you could/should have. In each moment see how you can connect with those around you.  If you are alone, connect with yourself and be totally mindful of how you are feeling. You can also connect with the beauty and majesty which surrounds you. When you are truly in the moment you can find the happiness which things can not provide.

Do Not Create a Criterion for Happiness: Don’t say “as soon as I have X I’ll be happy.” That thought only sets you up disappointment and keeps you from realizing the happiness you have available to you right now. Instead accept what you have in the current moment. See that in this very moment you have everything you need. This can be a hard concept in a society focused on accomplishment and consumption, but try it. Stop right in this moment and see if there is anything you really need for the next sixty seconds. If you have everything you need, then try to be happy for the next minute. Then ask yourself again. Work minute by minute to show yourself that right now you have everything you need to be happy.

Try out these tips and see how you can create your own happiness. Share your experience with us. And remember to smile!

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