Keeping it Simple on International Day of Happiness

If you’re looking for happiness in life, you can make that quest complicated. You can also keep it simple.

Today we celebrate International Day of Happiness, so I’m offering my advice to keep it simple.

Simplicity is defined as the freedom from complexity, division or parts. It’s also freedom from deceit or guilt. A rather modest and straightforward word, simplicity is associated with sincerity or an absence of pretentiousness.

In our complex, fast-paced and often dissonant world, today marks a great opportunity for each of us to find happiness, peace and contentment. And we can do it by remembering to focus on the simple things in life.

My Simple Happiness: It’s All About the Dogs

In my case, one simple pleasure has always been found in dogs. My first dog was Brandy, a lovable, slobbery and often excitable boxer. A bright light to our family, Brandy slept with me and often took up most of the space on my bed. Did I care that I had to make room for her? Absolutely not. Her warmth, love and unfeigned companionship was a gift to my youth.

As the years progressed, I never forgot the simple pleasure I found in dogs. In fact, the bigger, gentler and more lumbering, the better they suited me.

Jimmy and Henri enjoying an afternoon nap

For our tenth wedding anniversary, I convinced my husband to buy me a boxer pup. A former paperboy and often chased by dogs during his own youth, Jimmy was hardly amenable to my suggestion. Despite his initial misgivings, Jimmy became hooked on the simple pleasures of doggie love, too. From the moment we brought home 8-week-old Henrietta, whom we nicknamed Henri, Jimmy discovered the meaning of “man’s best friend” in this loyal and best behaved dog, ever.

In the coming months, Henri grew physically and matured in spirit and companionship. When our daughter was born, Henri became Kaley’s self-appointed confidante, playmate and protector.

Henri keeping watch over newborn Kaley

For Kaley’s sixth birthday, my husband and I added Buster to our family. He was a bruising male boxer with flashy white markings who, as a tiny puppy, could pull our giant kitchen table out to the lanai if it meant being closer to us. He was stubborn, suffered from separation anxiety and possessed escape artist skills rivaling those of Harry Houdini. Despite all his quirks, Buster became alternately known, and dearly loved, as “Buddy.”

A growing Buster with Kaley

After Henri passed, we were back down to just Buster and I campaigned for the mother lode of all dogs.

“Are you sure it’s a dog you want and not a bear?” my daughter asked.

With trepidation on everyone’s part, we brought home an 8 week old English mastiff to whom we gave the delicate name, Lily.

Lily started out small and cuddly, looking more like a mini panda when we found her among a litter and chose her as our own. But small and cuddly didn’t last; she packed on five pounds a week until maxing out at around 200 pounds.

Fearful of thunder, rain and anything taller than 6 inches in height, Lily was the one-in-a-thousand mastiffs who would become known as legendary shedders. Spreading her massive frame in front of the kitchen refrigerator or at the foot of my husband’s desk chair, she’d sleep quietly for 20 hours each day, arising to eat, do her business or claim a 9 pm “treat” before nodding off again for her evening bedtime.

Taking Lily for a walk

I no longer have my dearly beloved dogs following me around the house, vying for another walk or longing for their next treat. However, their memories and the simple joys they brought me remain.

Brandy, Henri, Buster and Lily were some of my life’s simple pleasures. They made my life bright, more loving and enormously happy. The joyful experiences they provided me couldn’t be purchased, connived or contrived.

Finding Simple Happiness in New Ways Today

These days, our daughter’s all grown up and on her own (with her own dog named Steve, I might add). My husband and I travel a lot, and we love our newfound freedoms.

Today, I’d be hard pressed to provide the ongoing attention and consistent support to dogs in the same way I did when spending more time at home. However, that doesn’t stop me from enjoying similar, simple pleasures.

I still find ways to connect with canines. Wherever I go, whether it’s walking along the streets of Manhattan or shopping at the Saturday Farmers Market in Sarasota, Florida above, I find plenty of canine “buddies” who can provide me with a momentary dog fix.

Proud owners are generally thrilled when I gush over their prized hounds, exchange some love and hugs with their furry pets or take a few random photos to share on Facebook.

Some dog owners even allow me to walk away with slobber or a bit of dog hair on my clothing. It keeps things real, simple and happy for me.

Wherever you are, I hope you make International Day of Happiness count for you, too!

Maura Sweeney in Foundations of Happiness

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Maura Sweeney in Foundations of Happiness

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Maura is an International Speaker on Influence, Leadership and Emotional Intelligence.

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