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What Exactly is Happiness and Can we Find it?

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By Christine Ardigo MSRD

I am happy to have reached my 46th birthday today. I am healthy, only visit the doctor for my yearly check-up, have no diseases, and do not take any medication. That should be enough to make someone happy right? But it’s not. Why?

Many of us are unhappy. We count our problems and disasters in life instead of our blessings. We put high rank on objects that, in the end, leave us feeling emptier. We look around at other people and what they have and we compete with them. We still suffer from high school syndrome.

What is High School Syndrome?

Way back when, we told our parents that we knew who we were, what we wanted and displayed total confidence. It was a constant struggle to prove that we were right and fight for our independence. We argued and grew a little more every day, demonstrated our abilities, until one day our parents gave us some slack (and the keys to their car)!

But we still had to face themThem being all our peers. Showing our parents was one thing, but showing everyone else in the school? Hard to do.

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We spent four years trying to prove to everyone that we were cool. That we had the best life, the best cars, the best parties. We competed with the popular group, who in turn wondered if they were really happy themselves. High school made some people feel really good about themselves, and others really bad about themselves. But we all wanted to fit it. We wanted to leave school every day knowing that we were a remarkable, talented and likable person that had many friends.

How come we had no trouble proving this to our parents and showing our confidence to them, but as adults we still struggle with this?

Fast forward to Grown-up Land

Many of us have not outgrown this. Some feel the need to venture into financial ruin just to impress their friends and family by purchasing things to make believe they are someone they’re not. Some lie and fabricate stories to pretend their lives are perfect.

We desperately still want to be liked. Some feel that liked means being perfect, buying specific items, marrying the right type, owning a huge home with Ethan Allen furniture with maids to clean it and landscapers to shape it.

Is that why you want people to like you though? Because you own things? How about people liking you for who you are. We are not sixteen anymore. We have to break out of this idealism and focus on what will really make us happy.

What we THINK will make us happy

I am surrounded by people who feel that buying things makes them happier. It is equivalent to eating the wrong things, and too much of them to make yourself feel better. Feel bad that your marriage is falling apart? Go out and buy a $400 pocketbook! Upset that your boss is a jerk? Go eat that brownie a la mode with extra whipped cream! Mad that you can’t lose any weight? Go have 2 or 3 high calorie drinks to drown your troubles away!

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Instead of Fixing our Problems, We Make Them Worse  

Does buying Aldo boots, Gucci bags and Michael Kors (whatever it is he sells) make you feel better? It does? Why? I mean really why? Is it fixing your larger problem? Are you buying name brand objects to reward yourself because your spouse treats you like crap, your boss puts your down, or to hide the extra forty pounds on you?

What would make you feel better? How about a spouse that compliments you and tells you how great you look in your TJ Maxx sweater you bought on the clearance rack for 10 bucks? How about going back to college or finding a new job, one that makes you feel good about yourself every day even if you wear a uniform or sweats to work? How about losing the weight and looking good in anything you put on, even if it’s a five dollar T-shirt from Target?

Want to be happy, REALLY happy?

Start fixing things the correct way.

  • Stuck in a dead end marriage? Either fix it or get out. Talk it out, write down issues you are both having, seek out marriage counseling, but don’t continue to live in that hell day after day. Life is too short. If all else fails, get out. Find someone that will make you happy, or look at yourself to see if you are the one causing the problems. When is the last time you did anything super nice for each other? Compliments, little presents, cute surprises?
  • Lonely, single, waiting around for someone to sweep you off your feet? Why? Didn’t you just read the above? (Just kidding). Stop waiting for someone else to make you happy. You have to be happy with yourself alone and then that special someone will only compliment your YOU. This is your opportunity to make your life better. Go back to school (my co-worker did at age 40). Start a new career. Travel with your girlfriends to crazy places before you have a ton of kids or hefty house projects to complete (and pay for).
  • Bored and have nothing to do when you get home? Pick up that hobby you always wanted to pursue. What did you have a passion for but forgot about? Go to the gym more, design delicious recipes, join a group and be active in it but make it something you enjoy. Get out of the damn house and meet people. Stop being afraid. This is not that gymnastics class your mom dumped you in at age five when you didn’t know anyone. This is not the first day in a new school. This is not joining a sorority and hoping you get in. When you love yourself, others will love you. Walk into that new group with your head high and be confident. People should be happy to be around you!
  • Spent thousands of dollars fixing up your home but still unhappy? Maybe it’s because you have no one to share it with. Have parties, invite people over, laugh and be silly. It’s no fun to do all that work and not share it with others. I had an aunt that invited everyone over all the time. Big Christmas parties, pool parties, sleep overs and it was never anything fancy. Just great company, simple food and lots of laughs. That’s what a house is for, to have all the people you love in it.
  • Hate the way you look, overweight, can’t fit into any clothes? Fix it. You have the power. There is no magic potion. Guess what? You have to eat LESS than you currently are and get off your ASS and stop playing Candy Crush. Lose the weight, prove to yourself that you have the determination to do it for yourself, not anyone else. This isn’t about them. You are not in high school anymore. People say beauty is from within. Not if living with your outside makes you a mean, obnoxious, sarcastic, jealous bitch. Not if you feel miserable about your weight all the time and hide it. How do you think that is fairing with your insides then? The inside and outside work together, people. Pretending that you’re happy with your current weight hurts the inside, physically and emotionally.

What Moving to Another Country Teaches Us

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My former co-worker had the privilege of moving to France for two years, leaving the rat race of Long Island and learning a new culture. She wrote this one day on Facebook (I actually copied it down) and I never forgot it:

“People lead such a simple life here. They don’t care to have a fancy car or house. I can knock on my neighbor’s door anytime without hesitation and be welcomed. As soon as vacation starts, they are off to visit different places and cultures, spending their money on time with their family instead of objects. Children use nature for their fun. They believe in not rushing life. Relax, enjoy, come and see what the rest of the world has to offer.”

People might make fun of me but do I care?

I get made fun of for not having a real cell phone (I have a flip one where you Top Up and pay as you go). I feel it’s a waste of money. You’re paying hundreds of dollars to do what? Stare at a rectangle? Look around people!  Live your life, not stare at it. I shop mainly in Marshalls and TJ Maxx, Target and Old Navy, and even then it’s once or twice a year, AND I get compliments on my inexpensive clothes. The purple bathing suit I wore in a former post, I bought in Walmart for $12. I have a pocket book from Target that I paid $19 for that I receive a lot of compliments on. My 15 year old did not get a cell phone until she got a job and paid for it herself. She appreciates it so much more. And it’s an older model. I have a no-name brand pair of eye glasses for driving. I don’t watch TV, I feel it’s a major waste of time. I have never played any of those Facebook games either. (Do you realize what little time we have on Earth)?  I don’t drink because it just makes me fall asleep early and then I wake up feeling like shit. (Plus have you seen the price of drinks lately)?

What do I do for fun then? What makes me happy?

What I did as a little kid. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up but we still had fun. Lots of it. I love being outside, whether it’s the beach or park and take my daughters there frequently. I take them to amusement and water parks but I go on all the rides with them. I take them rock climbing, Go carting, we build snowmen, do arts and crafts, go ice skating, build forts and play Twister. We bake together, decorate Easter eggs and play badminton. I teach them how to do Kart-wheels by actually doing them. They watched me go skydiving, I’ve gone white water rafting and I even ran a Mudd Run with my 15 year old. Memories will last forever. Not I-Phones and TV shows.

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I love working on my garden and pond (which I built myself) and it gives me great satisfaction to know that I constructed it by myself. (Although I will never do it again.) I created beautiful things around my home that can be enjoyed all summer long and I invite people over to enjoy them too. My daughters love when we have parties in the house.

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I work out at the gym and eat healthy because I want to and I love doing healthy things for body. And I don’t care what anyone says, looking at yourself in a bikini and liking what you see, empowers you. Not only because you can walk outside and feel confident at any event, but because this is something you did for yourself, with no help from others and that alone builds your confidence. And what a role model you will be for your children! Imagine feeling healthy and beautiful all the time. Stop making excuses! Just do it.

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I ditched all the people around me that sucked the life out of me. I wasted so much time trying to get jealous haters to like me, that the ones that did, I ignored. Surrounding yourself with people that support you and make you feel good only adds to the fun of life. If you really love yourself, feel you are a great human being that is compassionate, affectionate, helpful and giving, then who cares what those jealous haters think! And why do you care? They have issues, you don’t. But you are dragging yourself down to prove it to them. Just find other people that want to slide down water slides, jump off diving boards and run Spartan races with you.

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(Courtesy of  jpegy.com)

We are Terrible Judges of What We Think Will Make us Happy

I spend my money on fun times and good memories. Not things. Things don’t make me feel better. It’s a waste of money and that money could be spent on activities or outings with the people you love. Instead of spending $150 on a fattening dinner, spend the entire day at a water park laughing. Instead of spending $400 on a pocketbook, go away for the weekend and rekindle that romance. Instead of another $200 pair of boots, join a gym with a friend or spouse and give each other the gift of health and then giggle as you morph into those yoga poses or wipe sweat off your brow during spin class. Instead of blowing that extra $10,000 on a higher class vehicle, take your family away on a vacation (or two) that they will never forget.

If you have control over your happiness (which you do), choosing things that make you laugh and have fun, changing your career or friends, doing something by yourself, making it happen, proving to yourself you are amazing by your actions and that you can take on whatever you need to, will make you happy. Letting someone else drive your happiness, following them around, living in their lives, letting your dreams fade away, not pursuing hobbies you love? No smart phone will ever make it better.

Good and bad things happen to all of us. How you choose to turn it around and find happiness is YOUR choice. Stop looking for “external” validation. Who cares! Do YOU like yourself? Why or why not? If not, fix it. When you become the best person you can be in your own eyes, you will spread happiness to everyone around you.

P.S. One of my favorite memories was a year ago when my daughters and I experienced a black-out in our house. The three of us (they were 9 and 14 at the time) snuggled up under the covers in my bed amongst the candle light and we recorded ourselves saying all sorts of silly things, and then played it over and over again. We never laughed so hard. We still talk about it until this day, and it didn’t cost a thing.

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What are some simple things you find happiness in? What do you plan to work on in the new year to improve your happiness? Let me know. I love hearing from you!

CHRISTINE ARDIGO – Author of Cheating to SurviveEvery Five Years & The Bridges Before Us

The greatest compliment you can give me is when you share this with others.
I sincerely appreciate it:

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44 Thoughts on “What Exactly is Happiness and Can we Find it?

  1. rama rajagopalan on September 25, 2013 at 4:40 am said:

    wow!! well said!! Thanks for preserving and sharing my thoughts! We as a family still try to follow what we learnt while we were away!!! We are trying to keep ourselves active physically and mentally!

    • Christine on September 25, 2013 at 7:51 am said:

      You are very welcome. I saved your quote, waiting for the perfect time to present it. I love it! (And i love that picture of you!)

  2. I love this! So true! Go Tim go! Happy Birthday =P

  3. Amazing article. Loved it. Thank you.

  4. Robin Blumstein on September 25, 2013 at 11:29 am said:

    I loved this article Chris. Beautifully written!

  5. jeannine vardaro on September 25, 2013 at 8:15 pm said:

    You are such a rare find!! SO LUCKY to have u in my life

  6. Very inspiring article! Thank you! 😉

  7. Debbie Dalessio on September 25, 2013 at 10:47 pm said:

    Thanks for sharing such great information. You are an inspiration to all. I am honored and proud to be your friend.

  8. Great post. It really made me stop and think about where I fit into all of this. Thankfully I can say that I don’t really try and keep up with the Jones’ or try buy things to make myself happy. I do enjoy watching tv and have put some thought, recently, towards cutting back and finding other ways to recharge my battery. I am very introverted and like the laid back approach that a tv provides. I know it’s not best for my health, but it’s how I recharge my battery. Running or rock climbing isn’t what works for me so I need to find a happy middle between keeping physically active and my downtime to recharge.

    • Christine on October 4, 2013 at 8:58 pm said:

      Thank you for your comment Tamra! it doesnt have to be something physical. Just something you love to do. My other passion is writing. I hope to write a novel one day. Look inside you and find what you enjoy doing, or something you used to do but stopped, or something you’ve always wanted to try.It could be taking a cooking class, or teaching your clean eating secrets to a group at the library. Maybe there is a new exercise you’d like to try: kick boxing, martial arts, lifting weights, or a new class at the gym. It might spring you out of your “Introvert” lifestyle. Remember, face your fears!! And find out why you are an introvert. The reason might be what is keeping you from finding your happiness. 😛

  9. What solid thoughts and things we are experienced at one time growing up. You look terrific BTW.

  10. My favorite TV show one defined happiness as: Love, laughter, friendship, purpose and a dance.

    That quote really struck me, and speaks to everything you said up above. Not money, not status, but the things one can’t put a price tag on. I think it’s easy in our culture to forget that, and I loved your bit about your friend from France. Having traveled abroad extensively, I wish we could adapt their attitude and lifestyle because they really know how to be happy.

    Great post!

    • Christine on November 24, 2013 at 7:41 am said:

      Thank you Chrissy! It’s so true. I wish everyone would realize this. We would have a happier world!
      Lots of laughter today!!

  11. So very spot on! Thank you for sharing. I will pick my faves and share your post in my post. I really appreciate you offering this up! I am sure you will have a great year ahead!

  12. Kelly Giewat on January 30, 2014 at 12:44 pm said:

    Awesome article- so true!! Finding activities you enjoy is THE key to both happiness and fitness! For Christmas this year my husband and I bought each other a canoe so we can explore the amazing natural beauty all around us- together!! And just this week my 15 year old son and I were stuck in the house for two days due to Louisiana’s”sneauxmageddon” and we cooked, watched movies, played with our cats and laughed and laughed over goofy stuff we said and did. I know THAT is something we will both remember even though it cost us nothing! You find happiness when you realize that the little things are really the big things!!

    • Christine on February 1, 2014 at 4:18 pm said:

      Awesome Kelly. These moments will last longer than anything else. I cant wait to hear more about the canoeing! (And pictures) 🙂

  13. You make so many awesome points! We are in control of our own happiness, and even though sometimes we can fix it (like our health, or relationships) a lot of it is simply based on our thoughts and how we interpret things. Great post!

  14. Wow! What a wonderful post. I try to keep these things in mind but sometimes in this physical realm we live in it becomes hard to block out all the external stimuli we think will make us happy. It’s only when we remember we are all spiritual beings and try to reconnect with that goodness that we realize material objects cannot bring us happiness.

    • Christine on February 13, 2014 at 3:50 pm said:

      Yes! And thank you. It is so true. I try to lead such a simple, yet fun life. 🙂

    • Christine on March 14, 2014 at 1:31 pm said:

      Thank you so much Jill. Glad you enjoyed it. I dont have much money so it’s easy not to rely on the physical things. Hee hee Love your take on it too!

  15. LOVE LOVE LOVE this post. The weight section really hit hard and hit home and was what I needed to read today! Think I might actually print it out and put it on the side of the fridge. Seriously. Great blog. Think I’m a new fan:)

    • Christine on March 14, 2014 at 1:28 pm said:

      Thank you so much Carolyn! I am sitting here on my lunch hour reading your comment and you put a huge smile on my face! My co-worker is looking at me like I’m nuts. Thank you again and let me know if there is anything else i can help you with!

  16. Christine, this is such a great post, packed with wise words…I do think the ultimate goal is to be happy, but most of us try to create happiness through material “things”. You hit the nail on the head. I LOVE the cartoon…Go Tim! 🙂

  17. Great article! What a wonderful reminder to stop and “smell the roses”. It’s not about what we have, it’s about what we do with what we have. I love, love, love your graphic with Tim! To have just a bit more of the cartoon person’s attitude! 🙂

  18. Hi Christine,
    I found your post on the SITS Facebook group page. I really enjoyed reading your post. I could relate to a lot of the different things you mentioned above. I am currently working on eating healthier, working out more and trying to get out of this funk I’ve been in. I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts and I will follow you on twitter, pinterest and Facebook.
    -Doree

    • Christine on March 20, 2014 at 7:11 pm said:

      Doree! Thank you so much, I was having a bit of a rough day myself but you just put a smile on my face!
      Glad i could help you and will follow you too!! 🙂

  19. Your inspirational posts are amazing! You are like a ray of honest sunshine. These really help me focus on what is truly important to me. PS. I do not have a smart phone either!

  20. very well written I enjoyed reading most I need some time to go back and re read this entire blog it is great , you have a great positive outlook , pushing people up not down is where I want to be .

  21. Great blog post, I share your positive outlook on life. Life is for living and removing the things that try to make you unhappy is the only way to keep on living. People like that will bring you down. After all we only have once chance in life to enjoy it. Everything is about choice. I choose to be happy. I choose to live. <3 x Happy birthday, have a great weekend.

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