Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, many of us lose our ability to find happiness in life’s simple pleasures. Granted life is more complicated for adults. We have responsibilities such as jobs, bills, and children. But far too often we let these responsibilities squelch our innate happiness.
We begin to believe that happiness, or the lack of it, is based on what we do or what we have.
We recognize that we experience joy when we get a promotion, a new car, or a new client and we begin attributing happiness to these things.
Often, without realizing it, we begin comparing ourselves to others.
They seem happy and have things we don’t, therefore we assume if only we had what they have, we’d be happy, too. We become so wrapped up in what we don’t have or don’t like about our lives that we begin believing we can’t be happy until we get that promotion, new car, or new client. And, our lives become a constant pursuit of happiness.
It’s not that we cannot derive joy from all of these things, and perhaps that is where the confusion begins.
Accomplishments, material possessions, and money can make us happy, but research shows that happiness usually doesn’t last.
As children most of us were in touch with our innate happiness.
We found happiness in simple pleasures. How many times have you watched a child have more fun playing with the box a present came in than the present itself? MasterCard even created a television commercial in its Priceless campaign that features a toddler playing with a box instead of the expensive toys that came in it.
Children don’t understand the concept of money.
They don’t know they’re supposed to covet the expensive toys and leave the box. They simply do what feels good. When she was a toddler, my daughter found endless enjoyment playing in the plastic bowl cupboard in my kitchen. She did the same thing at grandma’s house despite having a living room full of toys.
Children also don’t worry about what other people think.
They don’t set goals. Instead, they experience life moment to moment. They’re happy when what they’re doing makes them happy and they’re sad when they don’t get their way.
Children know how to experience and express unbridled happiness (and sadness, too—we’ve all seen the child throwing a temper tantrum in public, oblivious to all the people gawking).
While clearly as adults it behooves us to exercise some control over how and where we show our emotions, we could learn a few things from the emotional authenticity children exhibit.