Are You Happy? If Not, Why?

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.

What, no clapping?

Aren’t you happy?! 

Well, don’t let that make you sad because not many of us are consistently happy. According to the studies anyway. Science has us pegged as a sad sack of SOBs just trying to make it until cocktail hour. 

My daughter however, she’s perpetually happy. She gleefully claps her hands all the time for no apparent reason. It’s like a happiness explosion where her joy just can’t be contained and the sudden burst of happy claps is a way to let it out. 

I consider myself a very happy person, but I can’t say I feel “happiness explosion happiness” in adulthood very often. But alas, nobody is as happy as Avery.

She doesn’t fit the typical mould. She doesn’t worry. She doesn’t know fear. And there’s zero hate in this kid’s world. It just doesn’t exist for her.

I’d say she’s 90 per cent happy—9 per cent ‘meh’, when she’s tired or told, “No, you can’t host a play date right now.” And 1 per cent legitimate sorrow, usually when she’s missing a loved one. The rest of the time, bliss. 

I get the sense that many people with a variety of special needs are inherently happy—or at least happier than most. Without pessimism and dread and the weight of certain responsibilities, maybe there’s just more room for happiness? Or maybe they’re just wired differently. I’ve often said if doctors could identify Avery’s “happy gene” and could figure out a way to replicate it and add it to the population’s gene pool…well, the world would be a far better place. 

(Any scientists who might be reading, I can hook you up with a blood sample if you want to get started on this.)

HAPPINESS is a hot topic. 😄 Everybody’s searching for ways to feel happier—hence the bajillion self-help books and podcasts and happy apps. 

 

I can’t remember the passwords to any of my devices, but I can vividly recall some specific moments of happiness I felt as a child. And not just obvious events like Christmas gift opening or when we went to Disneyland. I mean random and seemingly non-eventful events. Like one night when I was maybe seven or eight after my parents tucked me into bed. I don’t know what we did that day, but I remember the feeling of being safe and loved and kicking my legs under my covers in a full-on happiness explosion. 

It was a warm and wonderful feeling of contentment and gratitude, which is what I think happiness is in its basic components. 

I suppose there are just too many responsibilities and distractions in adulthood, getting in the way and blocking the happy and carefree feeling we had as kids. “Childhood happy.” Maybe that’s what we’re all searching for. 

Before my mother-in-law passed away she and my father-in-law gave me a gold necklace with a happy face charm. My mother-in-law said, “You’re so positive. You’re always happy and smiling no matter what.” 

Well, that certainly made me feel special and grateful and loved, and of course, happy. 

I definitely set the tone in our home—good and bad. As the parent of a child with disabilities, our family has faced some stressful times. But, I’ve never stopped feeling grateful. Not for one second. I’ve always believed it’s my job to be as happy as I can. Because as my husband always says jokingly, but he’s right, “A happy wife, means a happy life.” If that means faking it until I can trick myself into feeling it, so be it. And most of the time, it works. 

I’m not saying we can control our circumstances. Crappy things happen and I’m certainly not all smiles and silly jokes when sad or scary things are happening around me. I also know we can’t fake our way out of mental health issues. Depression is never to be taken lightly or brushed off as something to “get over.” 

I’m referring to the days when I feel myself sliding into a pessimistic mindset or I’m feeling bitchy (which you can pretty accurately predict based on the cycle of the moon), or when I’m acting petty or feeling slighted (real or imagined) or when I’m just off for whatever reason. I CAN choose to rise above it. I’ll turn off the news (because that’s enough to turn anyone’s frown upside down), step away from social media (there’s lots of great stuff there, but there’s also everyone else’s baggage that I sometimes end up carrying around with me. It gets heavy after awhile). I’ll go for a walk, pet my dog, go to a fitness class, call a friend, or just find something funny. Try staying in a shitty mood after watching television news bloopers. 

I misplaced my happy necklace for a while. (If you know how often I lose things, this won’t come as a surprise.) I looked everywhere for it. But then one day when I needed it most, it appeared. Poof… there it was hanging on my jewelry stand, tucked behind a chunky necklace, like it had always been there (even though I know I looked in that exact spot and it wasn’t there). 

 

I wear my happy charm all the time now. I never take it off. It’s my talisman—a mindful symbol to take notice of the happy moments during the day. We all struggle to let go of worry (I REALLY struggle), envy, self-doubt, the comparisons, and the regrets…your basic thieves of joy. 

On the days when I’m feeling assaulted by negativity I clasp the charm around my neck (I literally rub it between my thumb and forefinger) and I force myself to find something, even the smallest thing, to feel grateful for. In my opinion, gratitude is the gateway feeling to happiness. 

So if you’re grateful and you know it, clap your hands…and be happy.

 

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