HAPPY DAYS AND THE WINNER IS...
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A few months ago, ELLE International launched a worldwide survey entitled “The Happiness Index.” Women in 42 countries were asked to talk about what makes them smile. We highlight some of these findings in “How to Be
Happy in 2015” on page 42 and online at ellecanada.com/happiness. was a pretty happy kid, which, given my Celtic heritage, is rather remarkable. Or at least that’s what I concluded when I would hear my relatives repeatedly say that “during the best of times, the Irish comfort themselves with the knowledge that bad times are just around the corner.” They would laugh after they said it, but the message was clear: Don’t take happy moments for granted, and don’t enjoy them too much either. When we were planning this month’s issue—its theme being about the pursuit of happiness and what that means—I decided I would ask people I met how they achieve, or experience, this emotion in their lives.
Dickson Yewn, an exceptionally talented jewellery designer, told me that he tries to follow an ancient Chinese philosophy that encourages people how not to be happy. (This line of reasoning makes the Irish seem giddy!) “How not to be happy?” I asked, seeking clarification. “Happiness is all about ups and downs, but the goal is to be in the middle,” explained Yewn. “You want to avoid the ups and downs. Be content but not too happy and not too sad. In the end, happy is nice and sad is nice.” He talked about the importance of achieving self-contentment, but not in the way Oprah might encourage. “There’s this Buddhist idea that if you’re meant to be a billionaire but you’re not, you’re not happy,” he said. “If you’re meant to be poor but you’re super-rich, you’re not happy. If you’re meant to be average but you’re not average, you’re not happy. So self-contentment means: ‘I’m supposed to have something and I have it. You don’t have more or less.’”
Several days later, I had the pleasure of hearing Susan Wener speak in support of Lung Cancer Awareness Month. It’s a disease that has affected my life profoundly, as my mother and father-in-law both died of it. Wener, now 61, was diagnosed with colon cancer when she was 36. The young mother of three daughters was determined to live long enough to see her girls thrive on their own. A few years after her first bout with cancer, she was stricken with lung cancer. Her remarkable journey—and the philosophical teachings it prompted—is captured in her truly inspiring book Resilience: A Story of Courage and Triumph in the Face of Recurrent Cancer. For Wener, being happy is being in the moment. “It doesn’t matter what the outcome is in life; what matters is the process,” she said. “And the process is that dash that’s between the time of birth and the time of death. Many of us are too busy wondering when we’re going to be happy—if we get good results, if we lose five pounds, if we get $100,000, if we find a mate—but we’re missing the happy moments in that dash.” So if self-contentment (however you define it) is one of your goals this year, start by banishing “if only...” from your mindset.
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