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Kids Know Best

Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors

Kids Know Best

Where does happiness come from?
Daniel  Gottlieb Ph.D.
Daniel Gottlieb Ph.D. More by this author
Apr 05, 2010 at 10:00 AM

I’ve noticed that a lot of us haven’t figured out where happiness comes from. For most of our lives, we are taught that happiness is a destination. We are trained to believe that achievement and accomplishment will bring happiness. We convince ourselves that material goods will bring us a level of security that will lead to happiness. We tell ourselves that if we do whatever we can to avoid what we fear, we will be okay. Then and only then will we be happy.

The road to happiness can, ironically, feel long and tortuous. Making matters worse, the road rarely gets us to our ultimate goal. But whenever I hang out with kids I am reminded that we adults are missing a lot of shortcuts.

I am writing these words a few days after a visit by my friend Amy and her five-month-old son, Jake. Some construction work was being done on Amy’s house, so she asked if she could come over for the day. I said sure, but let her know that I was working on a book and I wouldn’t have much time to be social. Shortly after Amy and Jake arrived, I went to my office and got down to work.

They were in a secluded part of the house, but from my office I could hear distant sounds. Usually I just consider it background noise, and I don’t pay any attention. But after a little while, I realized that the sound I was hearing was Jake’s giggling. I stopped working to listen more carefully.

There it was again.

I tried to concentrate—after all, I had work to do! There I was, trying to write about compassion and being awake to your life, and that distracting noise kept drawing my attention away from what I thought was the “real” work! There was a part of me that was frustrated and anxious, as I had a self-imposed deadline. But something inside that was deeper and more alive drew me to that sound like a magnet.

What was it about Jake’s giggle that was so attractive?

Well, we know about the biochemistry of laughter and how it releases endorphins in the brain that make us feel better. We also know that laughter cuts down on stress, but there’s more. Laughter gives us a taste of what everyone wants—happiness. It’s just that simple.

A while ago I was seeing a woman in my office who seemed to be carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders. Her daughter was away at college and calling every day. She was in a marriage that was deteriorating, and she was angry—at her husband, at her mother for not being more supportive, and at just about everybody else.

Finally, after ranting mindlessly for a few minutes, she realized what she was doing and said, “Do you think I’m nuts?”

I hesitated for a minute before I made eye contact and said, “Yes, I think you’re nuts. But just a tiny little bit!”

And we both laughed. Nothing changed in her life, but in that moment of laughter, she was happy and secure.

About Author
Daniel  Gottlieb Ph.D.
A practicing family therapist as well as author and talk-show host, Gottlieb lives in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, where he has a private practice in individual and family psychotherapy. Continue reading