I think I’m a happy person. I’m a glass-half-full kind of girl. I am content in my life, but I’m always looking to grow and improve. I’m not always at the “just won Wheel of Fortune” stage - but that’s not normal anyway. We couldn’t sustain that kind of happiness, and even so, the ecstatic moments would soon lose their effectiveness and there would be nothing exciting to look forward to. So, yeah. I’m good with being content and periodically winning Wheel of Fortune!
Why the sudden interest in happiness? Well, first, it's probably not sudden, as most people strive to be happy in their lives, right? But in preparing for an upcoming Zoom chat about happiness, I did some digging and some of what I found surprised me.
First, defining happiness can be difficult. There is a range from the euphoric feelings we get when we achieve something long sought after. There is the warmth of a loved one's embrace. And there is the pleasure we receive from intimacy. All of those ideas of happiness are short lived. It happens in the moment - and thereby we get a truer definition of happiness - as a state of being, and a temporary one at that.
Don't be disappointed. The experts talk about how momentary pleasures affect our level of happiness, but that being happy all the time is just not realistic. Life is too hard for that! Think about it, if you're under the misguided notion that you need to strive to be happy at all times, how successful do you think you would be? And what happens when you don't? The pressure to be happy would certainly crush you and have the opposite effect!
Instead, they suggest that you accept where you are in life, examine the good and the bad, and determine what you want to improve. Now, for some of us, that list is daunting enough, but you don't have to do it all at once. Just pick one thing that you would like to improve, for which you feel your life would be better. Little steps.
For me, that first step is good health. But that is such a large step - more like a leap over a dark crevasse. So, you have to break it down. How can I be healthier? One, lose weight. (Still too big.) How can I lose weight? Make better choices with my food, eat less, exercise, use supplements ... you can see that this is still too big, right? So right now, my first goal is to develop the habits of healthy eating and living. I made myself a weekly chart to check off my progress each day. Did I drink enough water? Did I take my supplements? Did I oil up? Did I exercise? There are 9 different things on that daily list. Do I do them all? Nope. Not even close. But I can log my progress and see that I'm making a difference. It is hard, but then again, so is life, and I think that's what we have to understand. No one is happy 100% of the time.
So, back to happiness. Instead of our goal in life being "happiness," we should strive to include moments of happiness throughout the days and weeks. It's hard to be happy or optimistic when the washer breaks down, but if you can accept that trouble is a part of life and we can never be trouble free, then you can move on. Appreciate what's going well in your life. Look at the faces of those you cherish most - your kids, grandkids, spouse, parents, siblings, friends. Those people are part of you life and one of your blessings. That's something to be happy about!
To balance the good and the bad, one thing that I do frequently (at least once a week, if not daily) is to write in a journal and list all of the things I'm grateful for at that moment. Start small - maybe three things each day that you're grateful for. Switch it up each day. Don't write the same three things day after day or that will pull you down. Your list will be unique for you, but it can be anything. Sometimes I even throw in something materialistic, though most of the time not. After you get the hang of it, add more. Maybe 10 a day ... there is always something to be grateful for!
Here's a sample list ... Remember, yours will be entirely personal to you.
Sun-shiny mornings on the patio
Living in Florida
It rained today - didn't have to water the plants!
lost 2 pounds!
delicious dinner last night
hubby who cooks!
time spent with my dad
phone call from Sue
an honest repairman
the friends who subscribed to my blog!
Ten is a good number to strive for, but there are days that I use my journal as a diary or even a prayer to God. It helps me acknowledge what's going on in my life and make plans, set goals, and move on in a way that is productive. It has made the most extraordinary difference in how I see my life, and psychologists agree, that expressing gratitude is one of the best ways to achieve contentment in your life.
So, go ahead. Examine your life - the good and the bad - but focus on what's good and the bad will not seem so daunting.