AS I was walking along the beach the other day a dog bounded up to me. He stood at my feet with a ball in his mouth looking up at me expectantly. His eyes were shining brightly and his tail would not stop wagging. A lady I assumed to be his owner was not far away so I asked whether I could throw the ball for him.
‘You can try,’ she said, smiling, ‘but I doubt he will let you have it!’
I proceeded to wrestle with the dog to try and get the ball from him. He was not going to give up easily and was clearly enjoying this battle of wills with a stranger. Eventually I succeeded in getting the ball and threw it into the waves.
He skipped after it like a new-born lamb then swam back to start our tussle all over again. It occurred to me that what I was witnessing was nothing less than unbridled joy. Bramwell, (as I learned his name to be) was a shining example of making the most of the moment.
He had found his version of happiness. This live demonstration of complete joy stayed with me for the rest of the day. I thought about how much richer life would be if humans regularly experienced something similar.
The concept of happiness is something we often seem to strive towards but which often feels out of reach. Surely a first step must be to take the time to think about what happiness means to you personally. In this vein I asked a couple of friends to describe their version of happiness.
Unsurprisingly, everyone had a slightly different answer. ‘Doing something I love’ said Ginette, “Being creative and having the space and time to do it. Enjoying the fruits of my labour and sharing it with others like baking a cake or cooking a meal”.
Another friend, Emily, said ‘spending quality time with friends and family and being able to laugh when things go wrong and being silly”.
Lauren suggested that it was spending time with people she cared about but added that it included being able to be completely herself as well as feeling safe and content.
Happiness was also cuddling her dog and having things to look forward to. My daughter Lucy said that to her happiness was making the choice to find a positive outlook on anything whether the thing itself was good or bad and then concentrating on the small details that make her feel good.
I then decided to ask the same question of my dear friend Maureen, who at 90 years of age has that special wisdom that only comes with extended life experience.
‘Happiness for me is when I am close to nature,’ was Maureen’s first answer. ‘When I used to go rambling I used to feel I was in heaven. I am also happy when I have people around me – listening and talking.’
I asked Maureen what advice she would give to people with less life experience who might be struggling with finding any real sense of happiness. Maureen’s answer was clear.
‘Find time to help other people,’ she advised. ‘When you have a listening ear it brings you pleasure and joy. I enjoy spending time with younger people and finding out what sort of lives they are living. But there is a special kind of happiness in knowing that you have been able to help someone else.’
My sister Nina, who lives in Spain, cited several things on her happiness list. Being with friends, enjoying nature, eating good food, being worry-free and spending time with loved ones. But her last answer seemed to sum up the thing that tied everyone’s individual answers together. ‘Basically things that make me smile in my heart.’
There it was. That’s why Bramwell’s moment on the beach had made such a lasting impression. Him bouncing in the waves was more than just a random moment of fun. He had succeeded in doing the thing which seems to elude so many of us in the human word these days.
In his own doggy way he was experiencing real happiness. It was a timely reminder that in our quest to find happiness we could all make a little more time to do the things in life that truly make us smile in our heart.