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Bonnie Bing: Questions about happiness bring interesting answers

  • Published Saturday, July 13, 2013, at 11:19 p.m.

Wonder how many times a day we hear the word, “happy.” After a brief discussion with a teenager on the subject of happiness, I decided to count. Fourteen times in person and seven times on television someone said the word “happy” or “happiness.”

Vicky Reiff, a counselor at Affiliated Family Counselors, hears those words, but usually it’s the words “unhappy” and “unhappiness.” When she does she asks the client, “When did you start feeling unhappy?” And “When was the last time you remember being happy?”

Asking people if they’re happy brings some interesting answers. A 42-year-old woman said, “I have to be happy. My life is so good it would be embarrassing to be unhappy.”

A 50-year-old-man answered, “I’m too dumb to be unhappy.” That’s a funny answer, but some people think a person of average intelligence is happier than the super smarties. Ernest Hemingway was one of those people claiming, “Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.”

Now wait a minute. The smartest person I know is one happy fella. Reiff agrees with me that happiness in intelligent people is certainly not rare. But she added, “In some cases very intelligent people have a harder childhood because their intellectual level is higher than their developmental level.”

Funny, witty people are smart, and they’re usually very happy folks.

When I asked my 18-year-old granddaughter what she thought the key to happiness was (by texting her, of course), she wrote back, “Money!” Then she quickly texted again, “Just kidding! I think it’s being happy with what you have and not being upset about what you don’t have.”

You can get very scientific about this subject – for example, deciding whether unhappiness is situational or historical, if brain chemistry is the problem, etc. – but let’s face it, being happy takes some work. And that goes for everyone regardless of where you are on the happiness scale.

The “be careful what you wish fors” and the “if onlys” are out there, and sometimes what you thought would make you happy can be a disappointment instead. Think how many unhappy lottery winners there are out there. Their dream came true, and their life turned into a nightmare. Yes, there are some very happy winners as well, but money can’t be the only answer.

Author Lisa Earle McLeod says people need two things to be happy: purpose and pleasure. I couldn’t agree more. Meaningful goals are a part of happy people’s lives. They are helping others and being kind.

I think it’s so important to take pleasure in the moment you’re in. We’ve all known people who dwell on the past, but even if the past was full of happy moments, those aren’t the moments that should be concentrated on now. And it’s great to look forward to the weekend or whatever, but it’s still taking focus away from the pleasures to be experienced today.

When I gave a commencement speech at Wichita State University, I ended it by telling the graduates something that a very wise older lady told me years ago: “Let not the tears of yesterday nor the fears of tomorrow spoil the joys of today.”

Be happy.

Reach Bonnie Bing at bingbylines@gmail.com.

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