I’m going to be honest. There was a time in my life where I wasn’t so happy. I was satisfied, because I really did have everything I needed, but I wasn’t happy. And I’m not sure if there was even a life-shattering event that took place which made me become a truly happy person. But I do know this — I am the happiest now I have ever been.
For the past five years, I have seemed to build an empire of happiness around me. I have surrounded myself with happy people, which means selectively choosing my friends and acquaintances. I don’t allow negativity into my space — whether that is my mental space, my physical space or my emotional space. I have learned how to be so in tune with myself that when something is making me unhappy, I take time to reflect on it, meditate and explore the circumstances surrounding the emotion, instead of pushing it aside and burying it. And above all, I have learned to be present and find joy in the smallest aspects of life, from a cicada that made a racket outside my window this week to the elderly man I say hello to while walking past his Brooklyn stoop each morning. (He doesn’t ever respond, but I know he hears me, as he gives me the slightest head nod.)
When I sat down to write this article though, I became stuck in the writing journey because I had never thought about how I had built this empire of happiness. So, I laced up my running shoes and went for a run, because running is what gets me unstuck when I have a writing project that just doesn’t seem to be flowing.
I took off around the block and headed toward my neighborhood park. I decided in mid-stride that I would take some time to reflect on this topic underneath my favorite tree in Brooklyn. It is an oak tree which is about 80 years old, with a thick curved branch perfect for sitting on or hanging from. And when I arrived at the tree for my mid-run stretch, I said aloud, “How do you build an empire of happiness?”