Text and Photo by Henrylito D. Tacio
“One of the first steps to happiness is deciding that you want to be happy and knowing what that means. I have had many full-on conversations about what that looks like for me. To be happy is a choice you make every day, every hour. And refining and renewing that state is a constant pursuit.” – Julia Roberts
When the great American golfer Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias was dying of cancer, her husband, George Zaharias, came to her bedside. Although he desired to be strong for her sake, he found he was unable to control his emotions and began to cry.
The pioneer and leader in professional sports said to him gently, “Now honey, don’t take on so. While I’ve been in the hospital, I have learned one thing. A moment of happiness is a lifetime, and I have a lot of happiness.”
Happiness does not come wrapped in brightly colored packages as a “gift” given to us by others. “Happiness?” asked Storm Jameson. “It is an illusion to think that more comfort means more happiness. Happiness comes from the capacity to feel deeply, to enjoy simply, to think freely, to risk life, to be needed.”
You can find happiness in a little girl hugging her mother. A kindergarten boy brings happiness to his mother, and he shows him the card he has made for his father. A young man is on top of the world after being accepted by the apple of his eyes.
In spite of the pandemic the world is now experiencing, you can still see happiness all over. During a wedding, you feel the happiness that the soon-to-be-married couple is undergoing. You also catch a glimpse of the happy faces of those who attend.
“Maybe happiness didn’t have to be about the big sweeping circumstances, about having everything in your life in place,” author Ann Brashares reminds. “Maybe it was about stringing together a bunch of small pleasures.”
An article that appeared in Psychology Today, one way to be happy is to “take care of the soul.” It points out that actively religious people tend to experience more happiness and to cope better with crises. Faith provides a support community, a sense of life’s meaning, a reason to focus beyond self, and a timeless perspective on life’s temporary ups and downs.
This is true in the Philippines, where religion, family, and health are the three most important sources of happiness.
“I find it pure joy when upon arriving home from work, my son opens the door of the house, goes out, meets me, and hugs me,” says Clarence C. Martinez, who works in a shipbuilding company about 60 kilometers away from his home in Cebu City. “I go home only on weekends or on Wednesday evening. So, after a long work at the office, I drive almost two hours and honk the horn of my car to announce my arrival and also as a signal to open the driveway. You can just imagine my happiness when I see my son coming out and hugging me.”
His three handsome sons are also the source of happiness for Gregory C. Ira, a Filipino-American who lives in Tallahassee, Florida. When I inquired the top three things that make him happy, he lists: “Listening to the entirely unpredictable exclamations of my five-year-old son Sean; watching my eleven-year-old son Joshua, smile as he dribbles past a defender during a soccer game; and catching my fifteen-year-old son Justin, on the exceedingly rare occasion when he makes a wise adolescent decision.”
Children are also the source of the “daily dose of happiness” for Dr. Loverne Suratos, among them: “small gesture like texting or sending me an email with just ‘I love you’ or ‘you’re the best mother’; when they ask for a kiss and hug before they sleep; and when they tell their friends that I make the best hot chocolate even if it’s just an instant powdered hot chocolate!”
There are also those who find happiness in serving others. “It’s true that other people can give you pleasure, but you will never be happy until you do things for other people,” Zig Ziglar, one of America’s most sought-after motivational speakers.
And that is what Steven L. Musen, former director of a Davao-based non-government organization, has been doing through the years. “Helping people who can in no way return the favor” is one of the things that make him happy. “I know of nothing that gives me a greater sense of accomplishment, even if it is something small.” Well, as they say, sweat the small stuff.
Steven T. Cua, who describes himself as “husband, father, and businessman,” is doing the same thing. The two simple things that make him happy: “Helping a child and making a difference in his world knowing that I can be an agent of positive change for our future, and helping the old and bringing magic back into their eyes knowing that I can paint a colorful portrait of their past.”
Friends also top the list of sources of happiness, among others. “Meeting an old friend” is one of those that brings happiness to Joffrey Emasula, a former television journalist. His list also included “staying at home watching my favorite movies” and “receiving unexpected gifts from an unexpected circumstance or person.”
“I’ve come to believe that seeking happiness is not a frivolous pursuit,” said Oscar-winning actress Goldie Hawn. “It’s honorable and necessary. And most people forget even to think about it.”
And here’s what Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said: “If you look to others for fulfillment, you will never be fulfilled. If your happiness depends on money, you will never be happy with yourself. Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the world belongs to you.”