I made a decision a few years ago that I was no longer going to search for happiness. Happiness is elusive, I thought. No one can be happy all of the time. No one should be happy all of the time because it would drive other people out of their lives on account of the happy people being unconscionably annoying. Happiness is a prescriptive lifestyle that we have shoved down our throats by social media and constantly leaves us feeling lesser than, especially those of us who deal with mental illness, imposter syndrome, or low self-esteem. You must always be happy, they seem to say.
But I was not always happy. I told my sister this, and since depression and anxiety runs rampant through our genetic lines, she nodded knowingly. No one can be happy all of the time. We each have had enough lows on our lives to understand that. And why try, when you know that sadness can crop up and leave one of us marooned in a dark room for days on end, striving to stave away the sadness and failing? It feels useless, searching for happiness when it can slip away in a moment.
No, I told her. I’m done looking for happiness, but what I’m searching for now is joy.
Because joy is the bedrock of happiness. Joyful moments are the seeds from which flowers of happiness can bloom. And best of all, joyful moments are meant to be fleeting. They come and they go and there’s no pressure to be bursting with joy all of the time.
While paddling endlessly in the ocean of life’s monotony, moments of joy are islands for which we can be thankful to rest upon before venturing back out to swim in what can be shadowed waters. These islands change the current of the ocean, just as joy can change our perspective of happiness. The waves seem a little brighter, a little more manageable after experiencing joy.
You can find joy in a lovely bird song called out through the air on a crisp morning. You can find joy when you sing along with your playlist in your car. When you hug a friend you’ve haven’t seen for a while or see dolphins swimming by at the beach. You won’t hold your friend in your arms forever and the bird will eventually stop singing. The dolphins will swim again out to sea. But these moments stay with us in our hearts and minds.
Finding joy means creating beautiful moments in time that make us feel wonderful for just a few minutes. And the best part is that when you’re done riding the high of joy, it settles like snow inside of you and sticks. You can recall them to lift you up again when you’re stranded under your blankets on a dark weekend. They give you things to appreciate and allow us to experience gratitude for them. Joy offers you a roadmap to where happiness may lie on the path ahead.
The hard knocks in life don’t hit so hard when you’ve got a cushion of joy to soften the blow.
So I no longer search for happiness. Not anymore. I search for joy. I put myself in positions to see the dolphins, to hug my friends, to hear the birds sing. I go with my sister on hikes or for apricot croissants. I’m building happiness from scratch, from inside of me, from a great snowdrift of little joyful moment-snowflakes that I’ve cultivated through my life.