The pursuit of happiness is an unalienable right according to this country’s founders. Then again, according to comedian Carrie Snow, "The pursuit of happiness is a most ridiculous phrase: If you pursue happiness, you'll never find it."
I’ve been consumed with happiness since taking on the 100 Happy Days Challenge. More than a quarter of the way in, I am realizing anew that pursuit is unnecessary and about as productive as chasing a mountain.
Gratitude is the cornerstone of contentment, and the secret ingredient to happiness is being present to your own life. As Parker Palmer says, “The pursuit of happiness is the pursuit of reality, because illusion never leaves us ultimately happy.”
Since March 27, I’ve posted 26 photographic moments of happiness on my instagram and facebook feeds. Countless more happy moments have also gone undocumented — but not unnoticed. The most powerful thing about being a happiness documentarian is getting gobsmacked by a previously unacknowledged reality: Happiness often withers only for lack of noticing. Such moments often slip through my consciousness because I haven’t been devoted to developing a happiness habit.
Suddenly, happiness is on my to do list and it stays at the top. Even better, I never, ever have to fake it. Many of the moments I revel in are tiny, yet they have a potent time-release effect, making me feel lighter long after the moment has passed. A pot of purple petunias (beautiful and alliterative!) Spotting two cotton-tailed bunnies hopping on a stretch of emerald lawn at Easter time. An inspirational quote scribbled on a chalkboard. A peaceful meditation. The sweet spring scent of blooming jasmine. A little girl in a filmy pink skirt and tights eating fresh peas at the farmer’s market.
Sometimes bigger occasions wrap me in happiness — hugging my son at the airport when he returns home for a weekend visit. Celebrating eight years of marriage with the love of my life. Brunch with my several of the yoginis in my sangha, gathered to wish one of our merry band safe journey as she moves to Alaska. The beauty of a cool spring morning at the Desert Botanical Garden enjoyed with my sister and niece. Hiking a sacred mountain in Mexico with two wise and wholehearted women who were instantly generous with their friendship.
The folks who started the Happiness Challenge list some of the benefits reaped by participants, including mood improvement, consistent feelings of gratitude and having more compliments tossed their way.
On the homepage of 100happydays.com, you see what looks like a giant fried egg with a mathematical yolk that says 71%. According to the site, 71 percent of people who start quit the happiness challenge because they “don’t have time.”
They don’t have time to open their eyes?
Happiness doesn’t require time or pursuit — it is self-evident and absolutely free. Happiness is elusive only by failure to notice.
Want help with your happiness habit? Check out our NewHabits app for iPhone and iPad users, available at the iTunes store.