Three Principles Living

Judith A. Sedgeman, EdD

Just being happy

Just being happy

I’ll bet you can’t watch a few seconds of the above video without breaking into a smile, and if you keep watching, I’ll bet you start to laugh, too. Laughter is contagious. People who are laughing together aren’t thinking about their differences, but joining each other in the common human experience of just enjoying the moment. Laughter is an expression of happiness, a beautiful ordinary feeling that arises within us readily when we aren’t focused on thinking that keeps it at bay.

It didn’t take much research to find out there is a worldwide practice of Laughter Yoga, and there is a World Laughter Day organized by that group to promote world peace. The popular health literature is filled with articles about how laughter contributes to physical healing, improves the long-term outcomes for cardiac patients, helps ease depression and other chronic mental distress, even helps migraine patients. But the serious medical literature is also filled with research about the health benefits of laughter.  Laughter is good for us; no doubt about that.

The only thing that stands between us and having a good laugh is seriousness — taking our own thinking, taking others’ thinking, taking life really seriously. I know, I know. Some of you are cringing at that statement. I did, the first time I heard someone working in the Three Principles say “Life is too important to take seriously,” a quote originally attributed to the Victorian Irish playwright Oscar Wilde. At that time, I thought seriousness was tantamount to responsibility, which was a hallmark of maturity. Laughter and silliness were for the very young. Of course, I was suffering from all that seriousness, but I also thought suffering was good, a sign of respect for the significance of problems. I remember that time well. Bobby McFerrin’s song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” was enjoying the same degree of public enthusiasm that Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” is enjoying now. (Skip the ads, watch them both, I guarantee smiles and laughter.) Back then, I was so intense that I really thought all the people humming Don’t Worry, Be Happy to themselves were just plain out of touch! I would grumble, “They don’t get it! Life is difficult.”

How did I get over it? I started hanging around with happy people and I “caught” it. I discovered the state of mind that opened the door to everything I wanted: new ideas, warm feelings towards people I had previously considered “difficult,” the ability to bounce back from disappointment, feeling secure in the face of the unknown, success in things that had seemed out of reach for me before. I looked out at the world that had seemed gray and hopeless to me only months before and I saw color and possibility and solutions instead of problems. All of a sudden, challenges no longer looked daunting, but looked like learning opportunities. I saw the humor in things again, and was shocked to discover that I could create laughter in serious business settings and things would get done more easily.

So, for the past 30 years, give or take some gloomy thinking that crept into my mind from time to time, I’ve been a devotee of happiness. It’s a fun place to visit, but, honestly, it’s a fabulous place to live.

Once you see that you are in charge of the direction your thinking takes, you can’t help but choose the path to Happiness. It comes naturally to us and feels more like home. If more and more people moved in that direction, the world would be different because happy people just can’t hate or fight or hang onto a lot of serious thinking about what other people should be doing. Happiness comes with contentment, compassion, love, joy and hope. Try it, you’ll like it!

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