Recently I watched a documentary where the journalist discovered he found far more smiles, more happiness in the poorest of neighborhoods than in the middle class or the rich neighborhoods. Of course we all realize in the logical place in our brains that this is because happiness has almost nothing to do with money and that the more you have the more you fear loosing. Fear is what drives us to unhappiness. Fear is a crippling emotion, often with no real grounds. Gallup, The American Institute of Public Opinion, conducted a study to find out which country had the happiest citizens . The survey results were surprising to most and it was discovered that the citizens of the poorest countries were the happiest. The list of the happiest countries was topped by El Salvador, Paraguay, Uruguay and Trinidad and Tobago.
The United States with all the material wealth that we have, listed 33rd. Of course there are other studies that measure other aspects of "happiness" often the kind associated with what you own, rather than measuring if you feel positive about your life.
The thing is, we all know when push comes to shove, when for whatever reason, the really important things in life are held in the balance, we know, its the ones we love, the things we carry in our hearts, make us truly happy.
The other day I had two of my grandchildren in the backseat of my car, they wanted to ride home with me from a family gathering. There they were in the backseat, in their booster seats, singing and chatting up a storm with me. In a brief pause, Yen said to me, "Grammie, I love you more than the stars" and Mei chimed in and said, "but I loved Grammie first Yen". In that moment I felt so full of happiness, so full of a warmth that comes not from buying a new purse or a new pair of shoes, or even hugging a puppy. That moment reminded me of all the love I have in my life, generations of love. My father, my sisters, my husband, my children and now my grandchildren. I have not spent one day of my life feeling unloved, well of course in my teenage years I was sure no one really loved me, but when the mood was over, I went to sleep knowing I was loved. That is happiness for me, even if I lived in a shack. Lets count our true blessings and find happiness in the fact that we have breathe that enters our body each morning, and that we have eyes to see, hearts to feel and always the ability to feel love.
Most of my life I have been on a journey to find out "what its all about?" What really matters in life? What counts in the long run ? What am I here for ? If its happiness we all desire, that what makes true happiness ? If it were money and things, we would not hear of so many wealthy lives shattered by drugs, divorces, and suicides. What is it that makes Tibetan Buddhist monks ranked among the worlds happiest people, when they own nothing ? How is it that smiles overtake the faces of the most poor in the world ? We all know the answer. Happiness is connected to our contentment, to our realistic expectations and our ability to roll with the punches of life. It has to do with recognizing that happiness is held in our hearts.