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Happy For No Reason

Jun 10, 2008
I was crammed in the back of an ancient flat-bed truck with 30 other Westerners, bumping down a rock-strewn dirt road heading toward the foothills of the Himalayas. We each had a bandanna covering our nose and mouth to keep us from choking on the dust as we made our way to a small, remote mountain village where we would provide humanitarian support for the villagers' educational, medical, and housing needs. I was tired, grumpy, and sore all over. After six hours, the driver stopped the truck, got out, and unceremoniously hauled our luggage onto the dusty ground.

"You'll need to walk the rest of the way," he said. "It's another mile, and from here on, the road is too steep and narrow for my truck." As the truck rattled off, I looked at my 91-pound suitcase with dread. Why had I packed all that unnecessary stuff? Ridiculous. I tried dragging it a few yards up the rough, mountainous trail, but it was hopeless; I wasn't strong enough. Dusk was falling; what could I do? Everyone else in the group was wrestling with their own bags; no one could help me. But they were managing to make their way up the hill and soon were nearly out of sight. I sat down and spent a couple of minutes fighting down a rising panic. Were there tigers here?

Then a tiny barefoot old woman, her face seamed with wrinkles, came out of the forest and up the road toward me. She approached with a warm smile, picked up my bag and astonishingly hoisted it up onto her head as though it weighed no more than a basket of fruit. Motioning for me to follow, she headed up the hill.

As we ventured up the path together, though we had no language in common, I was struck by the twinkle in her eyes and the simple happiness she exuded. When we reached the top of the mountain I was met with the huge smiles and enthusiastic greetings of her fellow villagers.

For the next two weeks I worked side-by-side with these people, attending to their children, preparing food, and helping administer medical care. Like them, I slept on the ground, bathed in the river, and drank milk fresh from the cow. To my surprise, I found that this no-frills lifestyle agreed with me. I felt clear, peaceful, and full of energy.

During my stay, I also spent a lot of time observing my mountain hosts. Here were people who had no electricity or running water, living on the bare minimum with no creature comforts. Yet there was a lightness of spirit, a sense of humor, and an easy friendliness about them that was remarkable. They were simply happy from the inside out.

Of course, I realized that the villagers' happiness wasn't a product of their poverty. During my travels, I'd seen plenty of dirt-poor men, women and children in all corners of the world who were utterly miserable. I'd also met people with every shiny, expensive toy money could buy who were ecstatic about their good fortune -- as well as fabulously wealthy folks who were living proof that "money can't buy happiness."

These experiences reinforced my conviction that happiness isn't about having everything you've ever dreamed of, nor is it simply negating the need for material pleasures in life. It goes deeper than that. What we're all really looking for is happiness from within that doesn't depend on external circumstances -- the kind I call Happy for No Reason.

In the course of writing my new book, Happy for No Reason, I interviewed scores of experts and happy people all over the world, and delved into the research from the burgeoning field of Positive Psychology, the scientific study of happiness. What I learned was life-changing! We each have a "happiness set-point," that determines our level of happiness. And in the same way that we turn up the thermostat at home to get warm on a chilly day, we can raise our happiness set-point to become happier.

Imagine, you don't have to get richer, thinner, or smarter to be happy. All you have to do is raise your happiness set-point. But how to do that? I set out to find the answer to that question and ended up writing a book. Ultimately, I found that we don't have to move to a village deep in the Himalayas in order to be happy from the inside out. Being Happy for No Reason is available to you wherever you are and whatever your circumstances because it's your innermost essence. You don't have to create it -- it's who you are.
About the Author
Marci Shimoff is author of the new book Happy for No Reason: 7 Steps to Being Happy from the Inside Out; plus Chicken Soup for the Woman's Soul and Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul, making her one of the bestselling female nonfiction authors of all time. She's also a featured teacher in the international film and book phenomenon, The Secret. Visit Happy for No Reason.
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