August 26, 2013

What is Happiness?

Happiness is about finding your passion and doing it every day—no matter what others think or what is popular or what obstacles you face. And this is long-term happiness I’m talking about, not short-term stuff you get with drinking, checking Facebook or ice cream. Happiness is hard and it takes focus. Happiness comes from within, not from without. Real happiness is self-sustaining and can grow even when you’re perfectly still or when you’re at the height of an activity—be it playing an instrument or dancing.

My view of happiness is perfectly embodied in Jordan Matters’ Dancers Among Us: A Celebration of Joy in the Everyday. This book is almost all photography of professional dancers in nontraditional dancing settings wearing street clothes. The first question you ask is, how did they make that leap without any special effects? And then the second question is, why can’t normal people look this happy in real life? I used to dance as a kid and I wondered if I was ever that happy. Their joy becomes our joy! After flipping through the pages of leaps, splits, and high kicks in coffee shops, horse pastures and in snowstorms, you get a sense that being happy can happen anywhere, in the middle of any mundane situation. It’s really about being present—not thinking about the past or dreaming of the future.

As these pages illustrate, these dancers exhibit such joy because they are staying in the moment since their bodies are their instruments. If they didn’t have full command of their hands, legs, feet, torso and head—they’d be a hot mess on the pavement. Their focus brings about their happiness, which begs the question—when you’re focused, are you happy? Another question is, do you have be a master at something to achieve happiness?

I would say, yes, but happiness is also more than being focused or working hard—it’s also about being at peace with yourself and being grateful for what you have. I find when I’m grateful, I can change my whole mindset and stop my complaints and cynicism. So I put together my bliss list and I’d love for you to put yours together too!

  1. Singing
  2. Comedy
  3. Watching my favorite TV shows: Mad Men, Game of Thrones, True Blood and reading all of the post-show blogs on Monday morning
  4. Going to the hair salon
  5. Running
  6. Clean sheets
  7. Coffee
  8. Clean house
  9. Poetry
  10. Hiking
  11. Networking
  12. Wine tasting
  13. Clothes shopping at my favorite consignment store
  14. Finishing a very long book
  15. Napping
  16. Dark chocolate
  17. Museums
  18. Hugs from my kids and husband
  19. Writing a blog post for myself!
  20. Saying “hi” to a deer while running
  21. My nightly tea made and delivered by my husband


Happiness is also about saying you’re worthy of having pleasure and that pleasure makes you a better person. No one else can make you happy except you. Take charge of your own happiness today!

Alice Osborn, M.A. is the author of three books of poetry, After the Steaming Stops (Main Street Rag, 2012), Unfinished Projects (Main Street Rag, 2010) and Right Lane Ends (Catawba, 2006) and is the editor of the anthology, Tattoos (Main Street Rag, 2012). She’s working on her next poetry book, Heroes without Capes. Her past educational and work experience is unusually varied and now it feeds her strengths as an editor for hire who takes good writers and turns them into great authors. A Pushcart Prize nominee, she has taught workshops to hundreds of aspiring authors of nearly all ages from 9 to 90, both in person and online. Her pieces have appeared in the News and Observer, The Broad River Review, The Pedestal Magazine, Soundings Review and in numerous journals and anthologies. She serves on the Board of Trustees of the North Carolina Writers’ Network and performs her poetry to audiences throughout the region. Alice lives in Raleigh with her husband, two children and three birds. Visit her website at


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