These days it can feel like we’re stuck in an endless interlude as we wait for the first indictment (and second and third) while the criminal target tries his damnedest to incite violence and sow destruction to save his skin. If you weren’t paying attention to the rising number of court rulings that are tightening the screws and seeking evidence and justice, you might think there’s no way out from this interminable period. But that’s not a place to dwell, I think, which is why on this Saturday I’m hoping that we can reflect on sources of happiness—uncomplicated feelings of joy. I’m betting we’ll all be glad we did.
Allow me to mention a few particular moments that bring me joy: Visiting a city I’ve never been to before. Eating dinner with my family—any meal really. Handing my dog a bone and watching her total delight as she runs away with it, her ears flapping. Digging into philosophical conversation with either of my daughters, one on one. Listening to their laughter. Wandering the streets of New York or London without a schedule. Listening to live music played by a tight band. Writing (most of the time). Brainstorming (most of the time). Meeting my wife for a drink (most of the time). People-watching in a foreign country. Teaching a class with motivated students. Asking questions that yield unexpected answers (and spur more questions). Meeting old friends. Making new friends.
OK, that was more than a few. But try it yourself—you too might find it’s hard to mention just one or two. What makes you happy? Can we fill up the comments section with a flood of delights? Why not? What could be better than that? It might even make us more ready to address the coming storms in our body politic.
*Photo by Alistair Berg via Getty Images
My only child, who worked in an ER, at a horribly dysfunctional hospital run by UPMC, took her life on 9/11/2022 at 9:11 p.m.
I don't get to have a conversation with her ever again, but I still have an attitude of gratitude for even the simplest things, like a great cup of coffee or a good night's sleep.
Once the Biden and Harris administration took office and things started to improve a bit, I realized I could not live like we had been living through the Trump years. I think what's happened to our country has affected all of our health and definitely the health of our country. So I make a concerted effort to do things away from social media and the news, not ignoring either but not spending copious amounts of time worrying about what's going on. So making sure I see my friends and family, giving outside and walking along the river or on the beach or just down the street, gardening, enjoying my town and the people in it. And enjoying being home and being grateful for all that I have in spite of some of the things that are unbearable to understand or realize about how much our country has changed. Even with relatives who are on the other side of the Great divide, we make ways to mend some fences and allow for some peaceful coexistence.
One hobby is reviewing photos by the space Hubble and Webb telescopes! The colors and expanses of the vast universe with established or newly formed stars and galaxies completely amazes me.
And further how fortunate I am
“To BE” “To BE” to see this experience this ... this “LIVING” thing
It makes me wistful that we tie ourselves into knots fighting wars while also hating. We don’t realize this incredible gift of BEING
Thank you Steven
You are inspiring
Admittedly, many things make me happy, even in this seemingly dystopian world. Friends are on the top of my list, especially those whose senses of humor remind me of human goodness. Sailing is also very important to me. It allows me to commune with Nature and to separate me from shoreside concerns. I love sailing alone and with my friends or even strangers. It's a great way to cut to the chase and to discuss problems, dreams, and life.
Steven, thank you for posing this topic for discussion. It’s great to focus on positive things.
I am happy when my kids come to visit me, or when I go to visit my kids and grandkids. I am happy when I look at my sweet little doggo, who always wags her tail when I look her way.
I am happy when I wake up and there is snow everywhere. I am happy when spring time comes and I can get out into my garden.
I am happy when I hear the frogs croaking at night. I am happy when I watch the deer from my window, and the robins finding earth worms.
I am happy, and thankful, that I am happy 😊
I second teaching. I’d add: mentoring students, especially those who haven’t received much mentoring; walking in the rain; the moment when the sing you’re listening to perfectly fits your personal context; good coffee; intellectual arguments; laughter in the face of absurdity or sadness.
Hearing my daughter’s voice makes me happy. During the pandemic we made it a point to speak via FaceTime at least once a week. We even cooked together and streamed movies while on the phone. We might not speak as often now, but I’m happy when we do.
Surprises from my husband make me happy. It doesn’t have to be a special occasion or anything elaborate. Little things, like pouring me a cup of coffee before I can get it myself, make me happy. It does help that we’ve been together almost 30 years, but his thoughtfulness never gets old.
Please forgive my post. My best friend, my husband died almost two years ago. My sister and last blood relation died 15 months ago. I was a willing caregiver. I am alone so much of the time and long for human touch. I volunteered throughout my life and gave much time and energy to family and friends which in turn nurtured me as did my faith. Sharing a meal, conversation, a walk, or a hug will brighten a person’s day. At 72, I feel forgotten. I attend a grief group, take antidepressants, am in therapy. Hold your loved ones close. If you too are alone I send my best hugs.
Hearing my great grandson tell other hikers going down the path we just came up "don't worry guys we've been down there and there's no Gorillas"-watching him explore the dinosaur museum-attempting to teach him to swim while he enjoys spitting water!-meeting friends for coffee and finally catching up after three years in limbo-sunrise and sunset in Arizona almost always a visual spectacle-I love chatting with students when I sun teach finding out what young people think -it's important to listen -answering questions best as I can-planning travel- traveling -photographing places & faces-hiking – swimming – I don't particularly like going to the health club but I do it occasionally-I value my privacy but I enjoy communicating especially with kids!-classical music jazz sunshine in the house plants survive despite my general neglect! there is so much to be thankful for! Good health for example!
During the pandemic, my family set up a chat room called Cheering up Grandma. We continue to use this to share pictures and videos and stories of our day-to-day lives. Pet pictures are always welcome and lively discussions over silly and serious matters have taken place. My four children and 10 grandchildren are scattered across the states and this connection has provided me with immense pleasure, happiness and contentment.
Timely question, Steve. I’ve been thinking much on this subject. For me it’s community...connectedness. Believing in and acting on opportunities to serve more than my own interests. Service above self...that makes me happy.
What makes me happy? Friends. Dear friends and joy-filled conversation. Oh, and chocolate. 😋 Thank you Steven. Hope you have a happy weekend!
I laughed about the dog bone item. My dog insists that he get a bone at 5:30 every evening (not 5:29 or 5:31 but 5:30). It is his great joy in life. He’s so very happy when he gets it that it really makes me happy too! He’s an 11 year old coonhound that I adopted a year ago. So anytime he’s happy I’m happy. He deserves to be happy. As do I.
Mindless playing, especially with the little children in my life. Right now, Spring in the Pacific Northwest...walks through daffodils and tulips in my garden, bringing bouquets of them into my home, walks through the neighborhood’s cherry blossoms. Standing on the beach with senses wide open...watching jumbo ferries leave the island for Seattle, herons fishing, eagle couples soaring above in circles, seagulls in flocks, bird song at dawn. Waking to my two pups stretched out on both sides of me. Giving them early morning massages. Poetry...”Joy is not made to be a crumb.” Mary Oliver
Watching my crocuses, waiting for tulips to open, and seeing daffodils poking through the ground.
Listening to children's laughter - especially my baby grandniece as she's taking her first steps! Planning and looking forward to traveling to a new place. Petting friendly dogs on our daily walks. A beautiful blue sky over the Pacific ocean. So many other wonderful small things to appreciate and enjoy!
Thank you! This article made me happy. It reminded me of the many things that do make me happy: Reading, Knitting, Writing, Learning, Being outside amongst trees, Good food and music.
Primarily, I am happy to be alive having defeated breast cancer 21 years ago( surgeon grad. summa cum laude from Harvard Med School) & a heart attack 18 yrs ago (breakfast is 9 pills & a glass of coke).I am the last of my original family, even counting cousins-heart attacks. Even had 2 dogs die of them.Happy that 3 children were born physically and mentally fine, each having an IQ higher than 32 US presidents if google list is correct. Daughter asked to take PSAT in 9th grade, early admission to PS. I am happy I rec'd a MA, for it would have made my dad proud-him '36. I feel at peace walking around PennState campus,sitting on bench in flower garden, smelling the purple petunias, & watching the Lions roar! I was happy when father won living room full of furniture when answered a ? correctly on a live quiz radio program held in store. (Where is the furthest south snow has fallen? The equator.He had to prove it to them though.)I am happy by brother was home on leave when his AF unit was sent to Korea. I am happy when I make a customer laugh or tell them something they didn't know , and they pat me on my shoulder (M&M family ranch called Milky Way & horse named Snickers. Grant on $50 bill, color of twist on bread indicates day baked,etc.) Happy with plants, mowing lawn-can let mind wander. Love jazz ,blues (Buddy Guy concert) &, yes, AC/DC.And WBGO.org & WUCF.org on Alexa. Happy taking a walk, snitching flowers, leaves with which I make pictures,the feeling , tho tired, after I have cleaned the house, watching birds at my feeder, blue jay taking a bath in dish of water, a squirrel who comes to me, loves thin mints and licks salt off French fry, buries the rest. An unknown neighbor put pot of daffodils and hyacinth by front door with the pansies and others already there. Happy a history prof wrote on term paper, one of 1 or 2 best I have ever read (but unhappy when got a 99 on final. Would rather gotten a C than be one point away from 100). Happy when excused from taking journalism final but showed up and took it anyway. Prof said, What the hell you doing here. (I discovered journalism people swear a lot.) Told him I didn't have anything else to do.JC, get out of here, he said Meatloaf and Hershey milk chocolate nuggets. REALLY happy when divorce finalized, happiest day of my life, I say. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, I was free at last.
I try to find something to be happy about each day, but sometimes, it is difficult. : (
Everything you mentioned except the wife and teaching. Also feeling the ocean breeze, walking my granddaughter, baking a cake. Life’s simple pleasures, always the best.
Delightful Michael! So glad that you started this column so that we can appreciate both your views and just you! Thank you!
I am deeply touched by all the compassionate comments here. Thank you and God bless.
Thanks Steve for lightening the mood, just what the doctor ordered.
Communing with nature. Walking my pooch along the water, watching and listening to the sounds of birds, the wind in the trees, the wild flowers that know how to avoid the mower’s blades, the color blue of the sky after a rain, I could go on for an hour or two. Do you all have the time to listen?
It honestly doesn't take much to make me happy. Sunshine and a blue sky are enough. Taking a walk with my dog and having her look at me every couple of minutes with love in her eyes. Every one of my family make me happy and, I have to say, I feel very fortunate that we are so close knit because too many people I know have terrible relationships with their family. As I've gotten older I have fewer friends around but those that I do have I cherish. Listening to music makes me happy, watching old movies makes me happy, reading a good book makes me happy, my neighbors and their kids make me happy. Thank God for all the simple things in life that make me happy because the political climate of today, the raging anger that's taken hold of this country, can really get me down, but all I need to do is look at all the things and people that I am thankful to have in my life and it fills me with hope and the energy to fight on.
What makes me happy?
Spending time with my family (they live 2000mi away)
Seeing my wife smile
Learning something new
Using my skills to help others.
I live in a typically arid part of California: Tulare County. But we’ve been inundated with rain and flooding, so to say the following may seem odd. However, when it is calm, what makes me happy is being in water: floating on my back in my pool and counting the number of palm trees or sequoias from the surrounding neighbors yards (depends where I’m swimming). Wading into a warm ocean. The smell of freshly mown lawns in spring. Creating, finishing, and giving craft projects to a loved one. Learning and sharing the journey with others who are mutually interested. And being with my pups, whose lives we have shared for 12 years. Thank you for this question, Steven. I need to remind myself for what I am grateful for in this sometimes crazy time. 💕
Sitting in the sun. Drinking coffee.Taking a nap next to my cats. Doing a long, challenging bike ride as fast as I can—it's agony during the ride but feels so satisfying afterwards.
With Spring arriving, I love to watch the gentle colors of green emerge and start working in the garden. Both vegetable and flowers. Something about digging in the earth and watching things grow, is both satisfying and amazing. Takes my mind off all of the bad things going on. It's the one thing my husband and I both love to do each year!
Many things make me happy, fortunately. Being in nature here in Italy with my beloved partner and our cameras. Watching my 5-year-old grandson in his karate class. Writing articles in my clinical area of expertise. Reading ancient history. Being with lifelong friends. Solitude. Memories of my father's guidance. Hearing the ocean. Many things make me happy.
My kids, grandkids, friends and my husband who has been by my side through so much including these last awful years. Going outside for a walk - would love to travel but haven’t been brave enough yet to do so.. staying off of social media.
I lost my son to suicide many years ago. He was twenty four. I miss him every day. He taught me a great lesson by his act; nothing is promised, therefore I try and appreciate every opportunity for happiness that presents itself.
This is an easy one for me: MoMA and the Berkshires, specifically Tanglewood. I absolutely love MoMA. I am a member; and although I don't get into NYC from my home in NJ as often as I would like, when I do go into NYC it is usually a visit to MoMA, either an all day at MoMA, with lunch in the Cafe on 2, and, of course, some time in the MoMA Design Store; or if I am doing something else in NYC I will often just go to MoMA for 1 hour and often have lunch there also. No matter what the special exhibit is, as soon as I enter the building I rush right up to the 5th floor and sit in the Monet Water Lilies room, looking at that painting from every angle, taking several pictures and always taking a video also. I went through all of the photos on my phone the other day because I have so many photos of everything and I wanted to clear out duplicates (like I was going somewhere special and took 8 photos of me trying to get the best 1, well now I decided what are the best 2 or 3 and don't need all 8), anyway, as I scrolled through my photos every so often I would come to another video of the Water Lilies. I don't delete any Water Lilies videos or photos; and I don't delete any photos I take around the museum. I also have a lot of MoMA Design Store items at home: prints of favorite paintings, great lamps, Nguchi coffee table, my retirement present to me 9 years ago which started this great adventure of decorating my home in MoMA, Swag leg desk for my birthday last summer, throw blankets, bed spread, towels, with matching bathrobe. There's a lot more; but you get the idea. I love MoMA and I love the items in the Design Store. I makes me happy to look around my home and see MoMA. My home definitely expresses who I am. Then there is my other love, the Berkshires. Except for the pandemic years, I take a 1 week vacation to the Berkshires every summer. Last year I went for 2 weeks since I had missed 2 years. I plan my Berkshire vacation weeks around the Tanglewood schedule, sometimes focusing on the Boston Pops and sometimes focusing on the BSO. I always get to the grounds early and walk and walk and walk over those many beautiful acres. I have lots of beautiful flower pictures and sky pictures and sunset pictures of Tanglewood. I was there for John Williams' 90th birthday celebration in 2022. Of all of the fantastic Tanglewood events I have attended over the years, that John Williams event was the absolute best. On days other than concert days, I love the Berkshire Botanical Gardens, The Clark Art Museum, walking through Stockbridge and having lunch at The Red Lion Inn. Walking around downtown Lenox and browsing in my favorite shops and buying some unique, beautiful, incredible things. I have been to Herman Melville's home, and The Mount, where Edith Wharton lived and wrote her books, the Norman Rockwell Museum; and I have gone back to those places several times over the years for special exhibits, or just to be in those fantastic places. I have been to Naumkeag, great tour of the home and interesting story of the famous family that lived there, and incredible gardens. When I get off the Mass Pike at the Berkshires exit, the air changes and my state of mind becomes all happy and at peace and anything that might have been on my mind disappears. I take great sunset pictures from the back of my hotel, the Hampton Inn. I even have some great flower pictures from the parking lot of the Stop and Shop where I go to stock up on snacks for my room. I have 2 Tanglewood concerts for this coming summer; and I hope to finally get to Mt Greylock and the Williams College Art Museum. If there is a good play at 1 of the Berkshire Theatre Company venues, I will go there also. I have seen some great shows there. You get the idea. The Berkshires is also my happy place. How grateful I am and how blessed I feel to have 2 such fantastic happy places.
Just reading the comments here brought a smile. I agree with everything, most of all my friends who are my family here in Boise. What really makes me happy is the side eye I get from my dog when he wags his tail. #PuraVida
For me it's finding a really great novel, one that is well written and speaks to my heart. Being outside always makes me happier. Helping my clients release the trauma they've carried for decades, and become their real self again makes me happy. My grandchildren, dinner with friends or my children. It's mostly people related things that seem to matter. Even a novel means a relationship with a fictional character. And a walk in the woods is better with a friend. Happy weekend.
Making people laugh who I encounter throughout the day makes me feel happy.
Hanging out with old friends, listening to music that tells a great story (Jimmy Buffett, Eagles, U2, Allmann Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd come immediately to mind), getting on my road bike and finding that pedal cadence that makes me one with the bike, cooking outdoors with my wife, kayaking on the lake. All therapeutic and take me from the insanity of the world as it is. Finding humor in the most inane or serious things.
Sitting down to follow a watercolor tutorial, finding a bloom on a plant I’ve been nurturing, picking fresh veggies from my garden, talking with my adult sun on a daily basis because HE calls ME ❤️, taking a “pack walk” every day with my husband and our three dogs, watching stars on a clear, dark night, enjoying a cool breeze rustle through the trees, being out in nature anywhere, enjoying a wonderful hone-cooked meal with family. So much to be thankful for.
In retirement, I am happy AND thankful for: Family & friends; dogs; our church - open and welcoming to all, a communion table that from our denomination's beginnings was open to everyone. People who believe in: Democracy; abolition of open carry & sane laws for types and use of guns; a person's (woman's, woman & partner etc) right to choose, make medical decisions on what is best for them; watching a soft beautiful fall of snow esp when I do not have to get out the next day; first responders and all who help in times of need;; Midwest Food Bank & Chef Andre's group; just being able to rise each morning, give thanks and go about my daily routine in spite of a few degenerating vertebrae. For this and more, I thank God and am HAPPY.
Being out in nature, especially on a mountain bike!
A cup of coffee in the morning, with a dog snuggling beside me on the couch. A sunny day. Friends and family. Good health.
I have plenty to be happy about but depression and anxiety disorder nip them in the bud. So I try saying to myself, "I'm so lucky." Sometimes the reasons why will appear through the darkness. Today it is what a tight band is.
Attending a concert of classical music 🎶
My husband and I drove two hours tonight to Cleveland to have our first quarterly dinner with my sisters, brothers-in-law, nieces and nephews. It makes me happy to spend time with family,especially the kids (adults now) who love being with us as well. In fact it was their idea to meet quarterly. No agenda-just to break bread and be together. My heart feels full on this drive home.
I have taken to cherishing life, in a way I don't think I considered, in my earlier days. After I resigned from my job working for other people, I set out on a journey which included visiting my teenage nieces, who I had never met. I then travelled the back roads of New York State, stopping in many small American hamlets. With my little dog in the passenger seat, and everything I needed to live on the road, packed into my truck, I picked routes at random. It was surreal to leave the strictures of my work behind. Time flowed as seamlessly as the cross breeze blowing through my windows. I realised how happy and unburdened I felt during that time. Life didn't have to be frenetic. Importantly, I was not burdened by the onslaught of disturbing news, as my truck radio had stopped working. I watched TV infrequently at Motels, and read newspapers occasionally. I found myself taking in the sights and looking at people and places, is an entirely new way. I believe now, as I did then, that there is a better way to live, outside of conventional work. It was during these travels that I decided to focus on pro bono advocacy and animal welfare. Animals have always been my kindred spirits. And without a voice, they often need help. So, during that travel time, away from home, I found a new place in the grand design of life. I now have the time to work towards making a difference, in a field that matters to me. This is my own kind of joy. I believe we can all find our way, to where we were meant to be. Sometimes it just requires taking that fork in the road . : )
Your column makes me happy! And others like it, like LFAA and TC in LA, and Robert Reich's. Sometimes I think I get WAY too much email, but it's worth it. Other things that make me happy is listening to Beatles music or Paul McCartney music and even some of the newer artists' music, like some of Ed Sheeran's or Meghan Trainor's or One Republic. (Generally, music makes me happy LOL) Spending time with my daughter and her husband, and the grandchildren when they're home from college. Going for a ride on a beautiful spring day and getting lost! Lots of other things too, but these are what immediately comes to mind.
What makes me happy and brings me joy.
Getting to spend time with my adult kids who live in different cities.
Cooking for a crowd.
Hoping on my bike with no plan.
Taking my dogs on a hike in the woods.
A glass of really good red wine.
Waking up to sunshine.
Thank you Michael for this post!!!
The laughter of my grandchildren, watching new growth in the trees and plants as spring arrives, petting and snuggling with my dogs, teaching my young students how to play the violin, listening to Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, Tchaikovsky and many more and thinking about how long their music has survived and how there must have been divine intervention to write and perform music that touches your soul and how lucky I am to be able to appreciate it, my husband, meals with family and having good neighbors. Also, a good glass of Cabernet.
Thomas Jefferson wrote, “life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Much is written as to why Thomas wrote this phrase in such a manner and to its true meaning. I fault the beer! My life has been spent pursuing happiness and I fault Jefferson. I am not sure I know what happiness looks like.
My cat who curls up on my lap every morning, forcing me to spend some quiet/still time (when I read Substack, for example) before starting my day. Getting a massage, especially Thai massage. Walking in the woods and touching moss that’s glowing in the sun. Having “flow” time when creating.
I love it when sick people recover from illness. I love it when I work on a problem for a while and understanding finally dawns on me illuminating a solution. I love it when people care about those who are not in a position to return the favor. I love it when someone responds to criticism and antagonism with patience and openness. I love it when I see happiness in people’s eyes.
Family and friends enjoying food I’ve prepared. A friend remembering years later something I said that was helpful. When a lost dog is found and returns home. A simple solution to help a sick kiddo feel better. Our dog looking at me as if he “gets” me. The cats choosing a lap to occupy no matter what our other plans we had for that lap. Being married to the woman I love for 44 years. Amazing.