Formula for Happiness

When I was growing up, I often suffered from “I’ll be happy when_____” syndrome. I can vividly recall some of my most persistent longings. “I’ll be happy when school is out for summer.” and “I’ll be happy when I receive my driver’s license.”

Perhaps you can relate to my youthful longings—they are common. There is certainly nothing wrong with looking forward to and anticipating future events in one’s life—unless we become obsessive with such thinking patterns and fail to find meaning and joy each day we are privileged to live on Earth. I can remember being almost totally consumed with some of my youthful longings.

We have all experienced deeply wanting something that we were sure would complete our “puzzle” and make us happy. However, once that something was obtained, we often became discontent—even bored—and subsequently placed our focus on a new “something” we must obtain in order to be happy—on and on.

One of life’s most common “I’ll be happy when_____” scenarios occurs when we are in the midst of some illness— “I’ll be happy when I’m over_____.” Wise people throughout history have reminded us that joy is to be found during the journey—not just when we arrive at some planned destination—and that joy can be found even in the midst of illness.

There is a concept called “reframing,” which is looking at an object or situation from different vantage points to gain deeper understanding and/or appreciation. A reframing question I like to ask myself when I’m in a challenging situation is “What could be good about this?”

Even with two vaccinations and two boosters, I became infected with COVID-19 last week after spending a morning with a person who wasn’t feeling well, but had chalked it up to bad food the night before.

When I awoke with an extremely low voice, I knew something wasn’t right. I tested myself and, voila, I had COVID-19. As my symptoms increased throughout the day, I started to engage in a little pity party for myself. Then, I remembered my reframe question, “What could be good about this?”

I used to wish my voice had stayed a bit higher so I could sing more of my favorite songs. Instead, I became a baritone (which is perfect for my profession). Because COVID-19 had affected my voice, I decided to sit down at my piano and see how low I could sing. I was able to hit A1#! I thought, “How cool is that!” Then I got a fun idea. I pulled up “Elvira” by the Oakridge Boys on YouTube and sang along. I could easily hit—and project—every note Richard Sterban was singing in the famous bass part! By using a question to reframe an unpleasant situation, I was able to find some joy in the midst of my illness!

When we continually occupy our present moments thinking about some future event, we cannot fully appreciate all that is available for us to experience and enjoy in the here and now. Life can only be lived in the present moment! May we all endeavor to be happy now, because_____.