Happiness Is a Warm Donut
We put a lot of pressure on an emotion that can be just as easily evoked by a warm donut
I grew up in Houston, Texas, which is to say, I have tasted the world’s best donut. Shipley Do-Nuts: sweet, pillowy poufs of buttery gold that make all other donuts taste like old tires. Maybe I’m exaggerating, but only a little.
One morning during a lull at work, a coworker and I drove to Shipley’s for breakfast. Waiting in line, I clapped my hands like a small child waiting to ride a pony. My coworker raised his eyebrow. “How sad,” he chuckled, “that a donut makes you so happy.” For a moment, I felt ridiculous. Then, I had a thought. “How sad,” I snapped back, “that a donut doesn’t make you happy.”*
*I did not actually say this. Like all my comebacks, I came up with it several hours later.
It’s not that my coworker was a jerk. It’s just that, like so many of us, he had a hard time with happiness. It can take a lot to feel happy sometimes. And sometimes it seems we never get what we want because the moment we get what we want, we want something else. We’re all prone to this, I suppose. Maybe because happiness is not a constant state of being; it’s a fleeting emotion.
We put a lot of pressure on an emotion that can be just as easily evoked by a warm donut.
Donuts aside, I put a lot of pressure on happiness, too. When posed with the question, “What makes you happy?” my mind latches onto things like marriage, family, career milestones, extensive travel, a dream job. Big stuff. Stuff I have only so much control over. That’s not to say we shouldn’t derive our happiness from these things. But it puts a lot of pressure on an emotion that can be just as easily evoked by a warm donut.
Years ago, I interviewed the psychologist Barbara Fredrickson about her book, Love 2.0: Finding Happiness and Health in Moments of Connection. She told me that we tend to think of love as a grand, fixed, exclusive state of existence. This view of love can put a lot of pressure on your relationship. In her view as a psychologist, love is a feeling. To summon it, we need frequent moments of connection with our partner — sitting down for dinner or taking…