My Little Search for Lykke
I recently read a book called The Little Book of Lykke: The Danish Search for the World's Happiest People by Meik Wiking, who’s most famous for his first book The Little Book of Hygge. Wiking is the CEO of The Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, where he studies the world’s happiest people (sounds like my dream job). After reading about the factors that determine happiness, which according to Wiking, explain the majority of differences in happiness around the world, I started to think about what exactly brings me happiness in my new post-collegiate lifestyle and Chicago community. As much as I’d love to say that working in a big city at a large public accounting firm is the the answer to my happiness, Wiking made me realize otherwise. Rather, it’s the togetherness, trust, and kindness that I have given to others, received from others, and discovered on my own that makes me smile each and everyday.
Last month marked my one-year anniversary living in Chicago and working my first full-time job post-college. I recognize that the routine of the day-to-day often leaves me exhausted and oblivious to the people around me, so I’ve proactively thought of ways to make the mundane more novel. With this, I’ve tried to make a more conscious effort to connect with my neighbors, put myself out there in new groups to make friends, as well as find purpose in my community through organizational involvement. While easier said than done, I realize that I must step outside of my comfort zone to find these new situations--so that in time, my feelings of discomfort become a sense of comfort.
When I moved into my new apartment building last fall, I went to my building’s first social hour to meet my neighbors. Even though I found myself in a room full of strangers, I left with a local family, a few new friends, and comfort in knowing I was part of my apartment’s community. You never know who you might meet or who may be looking out for you from these casual acquaintances. I met a friendly neighbor who turned out to be a Chicago tour guide and generously gave my family a behind-the-scenes tour of the Gold Coast, and I met other families who have had my roommate and me over for dinners and drinks. People are always willing to open their doors or lend a helping hand, but you have to be willing to start the conversation, express an interest in their lives, and show that you care.
Being involved in our communities is another road to happiness. Whether you’re supporting local vendors at the neighborhood Farmer’s Markets or joining an organization you are passionate about, there is something out there for everyone. I love music and the fine arts, so I chose to join the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s young professionals group, where I have been able to volunteer and meet friends I would have never met through my job or my apartment. In addition, I’ve been active in volunteering with organizations that my company supports, and these experiences have let me give back and add value to my community. It’s not about how many things you do and how many groups you join--it’s about finding the place, the people, and the community that make your heart have a reason and desire to sing.
This reflection reminds me of a line in a prayer that my Dad taught me when I was a little girl and still remember to this day, which starts with “Is anybody happier, because you passed their way? Does anyone remember that you spoke to them today?” This prayer taught me that finding contentment starts with a simple smile, an act of kindness, and an interest in others, and maybe most importantly, that continuing to build relationships with my neighbors and community can give my life a little more purpose, a little more happiness, and as the Danish put it, a little more “Lykke.” We all need one another for support and friendship, and as it turns out for happiness too. With media constantly telling us the right diets, the right habits and the right clothes that will make us happy, maybe the key to finding purpose is cherishing our family and friends and staying active and involved in our own communities.