Thursday, August 30

The True Meaning of Happiness

Lately, I made a conscious effort to pay attention to the people around me in order for me to understand what made them happy or sad. I was particularly interested in their facial expressions, their topics of conversation, and their overall mood--was there a smile, a droop of the brow, or a reminiscing gaze. Those were but a few of the things I looked for in everyone I talked to and saw.

My finding, though inconclusive (since I was not performing a professional research), suggested to me that happiness had much to do with the material possession of the individual. In other words, our happiness could very well be directly correlated with how much money we earn or have.

People who smiled more often were those who had little or no financial worries. Those who furrowed were mostly from people who were trying their best to make ends meet. Occasionally they would feign a smile for their children or at church, but the truth was, behind closed doors, they were pulling their hair trying to figure out how to pay the next bill and feed the kids.

But that was mere observation, nothing more. So, I decided to look into my past. I flipped open my photo albums and studied every one of my pictures. I wanted to see my own facial expressions during the course of my life. Here's what I found:

  1. During my college years when I was poorest, I looked skinny and malnutrition. I smiled but my eyes seemed to wander elsewhere. I appeared to be hollow, figuratively. 
  2. Then I got married, things went well because my wife became my anchor. My smiles turned into laughter, open-mouthed, teeth glaring. I looked a little healthier, my hair was full and my eyes bright. 
  3. But the financial problems did not go away. The honeymoon period was over, we spent all of our wedding gifts (monetary ones), and reality sank in. My photos now showed a more tired version of me, always holding a baby or a feeding bottle. My eyes wondered a little more now--off camera somewhere my little boy was probably trying to destroy the kitchen or the Christmas tree. The late nights of thesis-writing and a full-time job with minimum wage were quite apparent in my expression. The bags under the eyes seemed a little more obvious, even under the bright flashlight.
  4. Then I graduated and got a job in the publishing industry. Life took a new turn, and we were able to pay more of our bills and move to a better apartment--the previous one being the basement of a funeral house. My pictures were now usually at dinner settings around food or some kind of celebration. The smiles were brighter and the eyes had a glint of shimmer. I also noticed that there were more friends in my photos, some I could not even remember their names. But friends nonetheless. I was also spotting more colors in my attire.
  5. Then I got promoted to a better position, which meant more pay. Oh, talk about the backdrop of my photos. Now they were either taken in Vegas or somewhere in California where roller coasters and big Mickey Mouse signs appeared in neon and glitter. My arms were now more fluid in movement, oftentimes frozen amid some kind of action. My mouth appeared to be talking more, and there was a sure sense of confidence and glow in my expressions--although many close to me might argue that the glow was actually from my greasy forehead. But no matter, the change in expression and colors and settings was obvious enough.
  6. I can proudly conclude that financial stability influences, one way or another, the way we think, talk, and live. Our wealth--or the lack of it--has a huge bearing on our mood and emotion. 
For all that I know, I am happiest when I have money--the extra cash to take the family out for a movie, to buy a few good friends dinner, and to sleep soundly at night without having to worry about the next bill. Some may regard their religion or spirituality as the main source of their happiness; I do not contest that. To each its own.

But to me, it is definitely money. With money, I can take care of the people I love--my family and close friends; I can reach out to the poor and buy a bum a drink. With money, I can pay for my son's piano and swimming lessons and eventually his college tuition, I can buy pretty clothes for my wife and take everyone on an awesome road trip. I can afford to turn on my A/C or my heater a bit longer, I can make sure the next meal isn't a hit-and-miss. With money I can breathe a little better and smile a little broader.

But the most important thing about money is that it has the power to put a genuine smile on someone's face--whether it is a smile of relief or of contentment--and more often than not, those smiles are all I need to be happy.

2 comments:

Martin R. Meyers said...

Great post. Got me thinking about maslow hierarchy; money isn't everything but it is if you don't have any- until then its hard to meet any of the higher needs. I'll be pitching to you in Park City- anxious to meet you!

Christopher Loke said...

Thank you for stopping by. I look forward to seeing you at the roundup!