Slightly Off Center

Slightly Off Center: How to Be Happy

By Dennis Hinkamp

This nation has such a lack of happiness it depresses me. What did I just say? I don’t even care if America is still great or needs to be made great again. What we really need is to be happy again. Maybe it is impossible in this political climate but we can try.

I know that this column and my demeanor generally projects angst, cynicism, nihilistic thought and rancor. That is just my façade; beneath it all, I approach every day with a systematic approach to happiness. I want to achieve not only the bliss of a napping dog but also the happiness of a box full of puppies with an open jar of peanut butter.

Stuff that doesn’t work

“Be happy it’s not you”: This goes back to your childhood memories of your parents saying “I’ll give you something to cry about!” Yes, on an intellectual level I know there are perhaps billions of people worse off than me. This makes me grateful and incites empathy but it does not make me happy. It can, in fact, make me feel guilty for being depressed since I have it so good. Relative happiness is an emotional corn maze from which you can never find the way out.

Being happy at the failure of others: I admit I get momentary happiness at seeing the rich and famous falter. This is actually about 30% of the media we consume; pump up our idols and chronicle their failures. I also enjoy watching the Yankees and Cubs lose, but that is not a sustainable source of joy.

“Be happy just to be alive”: I think dogs get this but it is mainly because they don’t know they are going to die. I am entering the age of competitive obituary reading. Hey, that guy died and he’s younger than me; one point added to score card Dennis!

Stuff that might work

Look at the statistics: The countries scientifically measured as the happiest are Denmark, Norway, Sweden and The Netherlands. The states rated the happiest are Hawaii, Alaska, Montana and Wyoming. The happiest foods are walnuts, kale, chocolate and coffee. The happiest dog breeds are Labs, golden retrievers, Italian greyhounds and bichon frise. I’m a slave to science and statistics so plan the road trip you can afford with a lot of chocolate walnut bars, kale and a back seat full of these dogs.

Stuff that works for me

Repetition: You know how kids can watch the same movie or cartoon 143 times in a row and still be amused? Well, you have not lost that gene; you just need to cultivate it. I have several movies recorded that I can watch at least once a week for a little pick me up. Your list may vary but mine is: The Rocker, the first Pitch Perfect, O Brother, Where Art Thou and My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Mariel’s Wedding used to be on the list but after multiple views, ABBA aside, you will see how dark it really is.

Happy music: My go-to happy dancing-at-my-desk looped choices are Wham! Wake Me Up Before You Go Go, Bruno Mars Uptown Funk, Katrina and the Waves Walking on Sunshine and Elton John and Kiki Dee Don’t Go Breaking My Heart. Most of these also exist as videos for your double happiness.

Get a camera and walk around: There is so much to see that you don’t see unless you plan on framing it. There is beauty in every tiny and huge thing. Try it; it will get you out of your brain box.

Dennis Hinkamp wishes everyone a happy September.

This article was originally published on September 1, 2016.