The Role of Happiness in a Good Life

Several weeks ago I was honored to attend the wedding of two lovely friends.  When the minister, the Reverend Kent Matthies,  was giving the homily he commented on the happiness these two have given each other and he started to say that “happiness is necessary…” and I thought he was going to say for a good marriage. Instead he said “happiness is necessary for a good life.”

I was very struck by this.  We all know the truism that you have to love yourself before you can love others.  This seems to go deeper though.  It says to me that in order to be engaged, in order to care, in order to give to others with an open heart we need to know contentment and joy ourselves.  There is a sense that it is difficult to live in a meaningful way unless we are grounded in our own well-being.

This idea flies a bit in the face of the image of the self-less giver whose only thought is for others.  It strikes a balance between self-centered hedonism, and self-less altruism.  It says that the truly good life is one in which our care for others grows organically out of our care for ourselves and our joy in the world we inhabit.  I am reminded of the meditation I learned from the Buddhist sage Thich Nhat Hahn “aware of my body I breathe in, smiling at the world I breathe out.” He says, “because of your smile you make life more beautiful.”

So smiling out my window at my garden I embrace this world and the day that lies before me.  I would love to hear your thoughts on the role of happiness in leading our lives, and what it takes to live a good life. 

Posted by Laura

Laura Marshall, LCSW, is the founder and director of the Sagebrush Center for Relationship Therapy. Her experience spans thirty years of supporting couples and individuals to create healthy and meaningful lives and relationships. She is also adjunct faculty for the New Mexico Highlands School of Social Work. She lives with her husband Steve and five sons in Farmington, New Mexico.

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