Gratitude and perspective: Ingredients for happinessMar 18, 2021
Throughout my life I have met different types of women, but among all of them, women who have their child on their shoulders and go out to earn a living selling their products have left long-lasting impression on me. People walk through the streets and look at them but don't see them. They may not be from our environment, but perhaps those women have a better idea of what it takes to get ahead and to survive.
I admit that I am a privileged woman. My parents had higher education. My brothers and me did also. I have achieved a career that allows me to earn a good living. It’s a great feeling but sometimes, one forgets that there are people who did not even have the opportunity to attend school, because in their town there were none, or because the highest grade was primary level. Those inequities still exist in life. I can see it clearly in my work with the different people that I serve. Having a higher education doesn’t make anyone better. But I wish education was equitable and accessible to all.
In this photo that I took in Lima while in Peru, I found these women on the street. Lima residents see women like these very frequently, but I have lived in the U.S. for almost thirty years and it gets my attention. Each of these women has her guagua (baby) on her back and they spend the day selling their products. The famous Peruvian coca leaf, which they “chacchan” (chew) and coca candies. Peanuts, chifles (plantains or bananas), and many other delicacies that they prepare for the trade. They wear their typical clothing from Huancavelica, where they came from. And they offer their products are very affordable. One of the women offered me a packet of coca leaves for 3 soles (less than one U.S. dollar). If we count how much product they sell in a day, neither I nor any of my close friends could live on that income. I really admire them a lot.
I share this story because we all need to put our lives in perspective. We are currently going through difficult times because we are in a pandemic. Some may have more challenges than others because of their particular situation. But we have to think that day by day, these women do a lot to survive. Many of them do not carry a cell phone or are on Facebook to even read me. Their world is very different from mine and that of many of you who are reading me right now. Actually, I'm not even the one to judge which world is better, because many of these women can be even happier than us in their different world. Because happiness is correlated to the expectation we have. And happiness is not attached to a dollar amount.
If we expect more than we have but do not appreciate what is around us, it will be difficult for us to be happy. It is good to work hard to improve, but we must never forget that we have a lot to be thankful for at this moment, at this place. We are surrounded by family and friends, we have a house, we have food. Perhaps some do not have as much because we are in a global crisis, but we know deep down that this is temporary and not eternal. In due course, we will regain the ability to do what we did, or perhaps we will achieve something better. Life has taken a lot from us and may have put us in a different scenario, yet many live without despair, without being afraid, without getting depressed. Many have a difficult time being happy. However, it is necessary that during times of adversity, we put things in perspective. There is always a person who is in a worse condition than us, but for many reasons, that person may be happier. It is a matter of perspective.
I have been working in the field of psychology for almost two decades and there is something I can tell you. People who have more material things are not always the happiest. It is actually people who have the most gratitude that are the happiest. Gratitude is priceless and achievable by everyone. But we have to be intentional about reaching it. We must open our eyes the the blessings that surround us and remember that happiness is a state of mind.
I wish you gratitude and happiness. Perhaps from now on, as you walk the streets where you live, you can see people and realize how happy you can be by appreciating what you already have at this very moment. Because no matter what, the love of your family is constantly there, to remind you that you that human life is what makes us happy. Be well.
Dr. Monica Oganes has specialties in school psychology and clinical neuropsychology. She provides services to children, adolescents and adults. To make an appointment, you can contact her in Miami (305) 800-9399 and Orlando (407) 809-5680.