Getting in tune with happiness

Musician Patrick Monahan of Train attends the Tommy Hilfiger celebration of Fashion's Night Out at Macy's Herald Square on Sept. 10, 2010, in New York. istockphoto

Most of the time in this space, I post a "dispatch from the front." Happiness has become an issue that's grabbing a lot of attention in our culture, and not just in traditional academic circles like psychiatry, psychology, and sociology. Look at the bestseller lists. Check out marketing campaigns. Google "happiness." It's everywhere.

There is no end of experts to hunt down, interview, and blog about in this space. But every once in a while, I think it wouldn't be the worst idea just to share a thought about something that made me happy.

Want to be happy? Don't just sit there

Take last week. A funny thing happened to me on the subway during my morning commute. And by "funny," I mean so unbelievably lovely, that I've thought of it every day since. And every time I do, a big, loopy grin crosses my face.

It was a little after nine o'clock in Manhattan when I stepped onto the "A train" for a two-stop ride uptown from Penn Station to Columbus Circle.

I was in a pretty good mood. I'd run that morning, and had a nice cup of coffee with my wife before I left. I was still absorbing a good review for my book that's coming out in May, "In The Long Run."

Valentine's Day idea: Sweat the small stuff

I had my earphones on, blasting my iPod. I love turning up the music and watching all the action unfold on a subway car - the old man whose eyes are darting from one pretty woman to another like he's 50 years younger, the mom holding tight to her baby's stroller with her left hand while she reaches around and wipes her child's mouth with her right, the boyfriend leaning over to nuzzle his girlfriend's neck. The tunes serve as soundtrack of sorts to the scenes that unfold on any given subway car on any given day.

Who are the five happiest people you know?

I've got two versions of "Hey, Soul Sister," on my iPod. One, by the group Train, I like a lot. The other, by a group called Street Corner Symphony, I love. I'd just finished Train's version, and was starting Street Corner Symphony's, when the subway made its one stop on my trip.

Two guys got on. One was carrying a violin, the other a guitar. The one with the violin put down a hat.

Truth be told, part of me was unhappy to see them. As much as I was feeling at one with the world, I didn't want to be shaken from my reverie, and I certainly didn't want anyone else's music to intrude on my perfect moment.

I turned the volume on my iPod even higher.

When the train pulled into my stop, I stood up to get off. I turned my iPod off and slipped off my headphones to put them in my backpack.

The second I did I broke into a wide smile.

The two guys were working through a very respectable rendition of "Hey, Soul Sister."

What are the odds?

I dropped ten bucks into their hat. It was a bit more than my usual contributions to the street musicians who play on New York City subway platforms. But considering the karma jackpot I'd just hit, it seemed reasonable.

Jim Axelrod is a CBS News National Correspondent. His book "In The Long Run" will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in May.

  • Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the anchor of the Saturday edition of the "CBS Evening News" and a national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley" and other CBS News broadcasts.

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