The not-so-secret secret to living a long and happy life
Along the bumpy road of life, I’ve learned a trick or two on how to find lasting happiness. Not to say that I am an expert in the field of self-actualization, but like my grandmother always used to say “if a hat keeps your head dry when it rains, it’ll probably keep the sun off it too.” So, if it worked for me, maybe it will work for you too – but if it doesn’t, please don’t fret about getting your hair wet!
My grandmother was a huge influence on my early life. Not only did she disperse good advice via folksy feel-good sayings, but she was also incredibly inspiring in her own right. She gave all her energy to her family. Although never wealthy, she was rich in kindness and unconditional love, which she provided in unending supply to her daughters and grandchildren. Her generous nature and kind demeanour was uplifting to everyone she met in life and that carried her well on into her 90th year.
However, the world my grandmother came of age in was a much different and challenging world than the one I know today. It’s important to never lose sight of perspective in life, nor to forget the path we all walk today was shaped, at least in part, by the actions of those who came before us. For example, my grandmother did not have the opportunity to go to college or to choose a professional career, something I’ve completely taken for granted in life today. Instead her life was devoted to her children, to ensuring they had all they needed to lead a happy life. I’ve been extremely fortunate to benefit from the kindness of a devoted grandmother, a trait she passed on to my mother as well and in turn myself. She gave me more than just the opportunity to lead a happy life, but also the wisdom to appreciate it.
The world I inhabit today is full of opportunity; however, despite a good quality of life, I struggle, as many of us do, to find a feeling of lasting fulfillment. It should come as no surprise that despite the comforts afforded to us by life in a developed country, no amount of material goods or marvelous advance in technology can guarantee anyone a happy life. In fact, some countries have even tried implementing new tools for gaging progress, such as measuring “Gross National Happiness” instead of using Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to truly evaluate a state’s wealth.
So, if we all know “money can’t buy you happiness,” why is it still so often tied to our impression of what comprises a happy life? There are two answers to that paradox. First, money and material goods are easy to quantify. You can easily count up all the dollars in your bank account and/or possessions you have and compare that to another person’s quantity of goods, say Sir Richard Branson’s quantity, for example. Happiness, on the other hand is harder to quantify, it’s subjective and can easily change based on a person’s life circumstances or personality. Secondly, there’s a definitive baseline of material goods and money one needs to survive in modern society. Hence you need at least enough money or goods to exchange for food, shelter, and clothing. This equation, however, doesn’t take into consideration the value of immaterial necessities like love, dignity, and personal safety that are also required to live and be at least somewhat happy.
The short answer is that’s just easier to associate happiness with the acquirement of stuff we can actually see or touch and to discount all that airy-fairy stuff like feelings, emotions and human spirit. However, this is the juncture where we can make some critical inferences about the true nature of happiness as part of the human experience. It’s also where my grandma comes back into the story. As I mentioned before, my grandmother was not a wealthy woman and she devoted the vast majority of her adult life to supporting her family in anyway she could. Her happiness was tied to the happiness of her children. She didn’t have a choice as to where she could invest her happiness, as many of us do today, but nonetheless she was happy because she gave the best of herself to a cause she innately cared about and reflected her true nature and personality.
At the core, my grandmother was a giver. She derived happiness from helping others. This wasn’t a personal discovery she made through years of meditation or self-reflection, this was just who she was. Even in her later life when her children and grandchildren had grown up and became busy in their own pursuits, she still continued to give to others. Her caring nature turned to helping orphaned pets and taking care of a huge variety of plants in her garden. I believe that the fact that she got to continue caring and giving to others, and to do the one thing that made her happy, throughout her life contributed significantly to her health and longevity.
So, you might say, the big secret of a happy life is to just do what makes you happy. Well yes, but there’s a bit more to it than that. You need to know first what truly derives happiness from your core nature. For some of us, this is quite apparent from early on in life, some of us stumble upon it by chance, and many of us happen to figure it out through trial and error. If you’re still figuring out who you are and what makes you happy in life, that’s okay. Life unravels its mysteries to each of us in a unique way. Don’t be afraid to continue learning and evolving your core nature over time.
If you do happen to know what makes you tick at the core of your being, then do all that you can to devote your energy toward making it the centre of your life. One of the advantages of the world we live in today is that the opportunities to support yourself in whatever creative or unique endeavour you choose has never been better. If your life pursuit is to be a pro golfer, or a software engineer, or a YouTube celebrity, the choices available to you today are endless. Just remember, the path of happiness does not always align with the path of material success, sometimes they do, and sometimes they do not. I can’t guarantee my advice will make you a rich person, but if you’re lucky enough to find a hat that you like, and that keeps the sun out of your eyes, keep wearing it as you walk down the path of life. At some point, it’s going to rain, but like I said before, don’t fret about getting your hair wet!
Author: Adrian Brett, VYC Ambassador
Yoga and I have been good friends for several years now. There have been some ups and downs in our relationship, but time and time again – yoga has always pulled through in the end. I used to be a track and field athlete and thought that running was the ticket to keeping me healthy in both body and mind. However, chronic injuries and asthma put up some serious roadblocks on my path to well-being. Yoga showed me an alternate route to happiness and health.
Since I discovered the practice 5 years ago, yoga and I have been pretty inseparable. I’ve since made it one of my life-long endeavours to share yoga with everyone I meet – it’s an exercise accessible to us all. No matter what your body’s history, you and yoga can have a bright future. Yoga has definitely brightened my outlook on life! If you haven’t had a chance to get to know yoga yet, I’d be happy to introduce you anytime!