A children’s book teaches that the best way to be happy is to embrace the circumstances we find ourselves in each day, rain or shine
Wishes can be dreams and goals in embryo. They keep us hopeful, imaginative, energized. However, when our wishes persuade us that we can’t be happy until they come true, they may pull us into discouragement.
I’ve spent too much time wallowing in that puddle, wishing my life away. It’s so easy to do. We feel we can’t be happy until we’ve switched jobs, moved, found a partner, gained more money, lost weight. We find ourselves stuck, dissatisfied, always waiting for life to finally begin, for happiness to finally appear around the bend.
I’ll be happy when
I get a puppy,
an ice cream sundae,and a castle with a friendly dragon.
Time and perspective have taught me that, as Anne Lamott puts it, real happiness is “an inside job.” It comes from a reservoir of love for self, for life, and for all creation that circumstances usually can’t touch.
Or, I can be happy right now.
Good fortune doesn’t produce happiness, neither must misfortune steal it away.
Even so, I need frequent reminders to claim happiness, and multiple strategies for finding contentment in dark or stressful times.
Children’s wishes run just as deep as adults’ — perhaps more so. For them, the cycle of wishing and waiting can be bewildering and emotionally exhausting. Without strategies to guide them, they may fear that their overpowering feelings will last forever, and never ease up.
We don’t have to wait for the school of hard knocks to train our children in emotional resilience. We can teach it to them right now.
They can learn, through example and instruction, to choose happiness today and tomorrow — to recognize that circumstances are on the outside, but tranquility lives within.
I wondered, when I wrote Happy Right Now, if very young children were ready to grasp that distinction. As I’ve shared the book with schools and with young readers, I’ve been touched by how intuitive they are, how readily they respond to frank discussion about their feelings, and how willing they are to learn.
I can breathe right now.
In is one.
Out is two
Breathe again, fill my belly.
Let it flow out slowly.
Feel my body relax.
Let my bones turn to jelly.
Emotions are a common language we all share, and kids want to talk about theirs with understanding adults. In our new picture book, Happy Right Now, illustrator Holly Hatam and I hope to create read-together experiences that foster that conversation in fun, natural ways.
The book explores ways kids can choose happiness despite a day’s ordinary setbacks — bad weather, common colds, school vacations that seem never to come. We also look at times when bigger sorrows may overwhelm us — moments when our own resilience needs time to rebound, or a helpful boost from those we love.
Well, that’s okay too.
The remedy for disappointment isn’t to stop wishing. When we know how to ride the wave of life’s ups and downs, it frees us to keep on hoping and dreaming for good things to come while remaining gladly planted in the present.
My wish for all children is a foundation of reassurance and support as they practice patience, gratitude, and thoughtfulness, filling their own reservoirs and empathetically helping others fill theirs. Children have the friendly, open hearts for it, and with the right guidance, they can also have the tools. And that makes me happy right now.
You may also enjoy reading Hello Sun! Sun Salutations to Help Children Wake Up and Greet the Day (and Life), by Sarah Jane Hinder