Sometimes after having a day of snacking, you just have to have a real meal. That is why when winter has gotten on my last nerve, I am rummaging around the bookcases looking for Tolstoy, a writer of real substance for the mind and heart.
One of my favorite Tolstoy staples is “If you want to be happy, be.” This is not such a different sentiment as that of Abraham Lincoln who said that people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. Given, optimism is one of those traits scientists tell us is carried in our DNA; however, the mind also has its own “plasticity.” Plasticity makes it possible for us with enough repetition to set up some habitual states of mind that might not just come to us “naturally.”
The habit of being happy does not depend on circumstances. Circumstances can definitely threaten happiness, but the contentment of real happiness is fundamentally a decision rather than a condition. Happiness is not a condiment. It is a constant—knowing for certain that no matter what, we will be there for ourselves and for others.
That must be why Tolstoy also wrote that “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” A happy family is one that demonstrates the constancy of supporting each other rather than focusing on disagreements and differences. This constancy takes practice and a decision not to get hung up on “the small stuff.”
Happiness in ourselves and in our relationships is a perennial that we know will carry us through the fickleness of February and March.