Small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

11/10/13

How To Be Happy

I hate self pity parties. It is rare that I find myself sitting at a table of one, but that's exactly what happened last week at work. It all started because my employer was giving out free flu shots. It was a bunch of little things that happened that day which built up, but after a few hours I found myself sulking at my desk trying my hardest to hold back tears. I hate self pity. I hate it because I know how wonderful life is, but sometimes a dark cloud approaches out of nowhere and I fall victim to the rain. As I tried my best not to cry I found myself sitting at work thinking of ways to snap out of it. Sometimes it is easy. There are days when we wake up on the wrong side of the bed, get struck in traffic, and spill food on our new shirt. Things like these can really make for one miserable day. Days like that happen to the best of us. These days are also easy to snap out of. There are many things a person can do on days like these that can help them regain happiness. Things such as treating yourself to something special,  such as a favorite coffee, dessert, special lunch or manicure. A little pick me up to get out of the dark cloud is never a bad thing. Music is another great way to lift the spirit. People's taste in music is diverse, but I believe that happy music is the best music. A little Nat King Cole will always make me smile. How can you not be happy with music like this?



But amazing music aside, sometimes unhappiness is a much harder to overcome. A guy I use to work with committed suicide last weekend. I didn't know him very well, but needless to say I've been thinking about him a lot. I've been thinking about my day last week of self pity verses struggling with a life of it. I wrote THIS post over two years ago which was my personal story of becoming happy after a horrible event in my life. I realize my struggle was a short one and a I was very lucky in being able to stumble so quickly back into happiness. I said in the post that people have no reason not to be happy. I still believe that is true, but I don't think it is easy for everyone. I've been thinking a lot about happiness and how important it is. In thinking about it I've made a list of ways to overcome and be happy. Some of these may sound stupid or trivial to overcoming true depression, but it life is all about baby steps. It's hard to see that when you are in the middle of something bad and dark, but it's true. One day when enough time has passed all those baby steps run together and what once seemed like a mountain is barely a mole hill in your memory. A single step in the direction of being happier can change your life forever. Since happiness is so important and weighing on me so heavily I thought I would share my opinion on how to become a happy or happier person. Maybe it can help one person.

1.)  Be Grateful. This is the biggest one. In order to be grateful you have to focus on what you have and not what you don't have. Dennis Prager has a concept called the missing tile syndrome. People tend to focus in on the things in their life that are imperfect or missing which leads to fixation and great amounts of unhappiness. Don't look at the one thing in your life that is missing, focus on all the things that are great AND APPRECIATE THEM! The more grateful you are for what you have the happier you will be. It's been scientifically proven. In my post on happiness two years ago it was becoming grateful for the life I still had, not what I had lost, that pulled me out of my depression. Some people have 8 million reasons to be happy and only one to be unhappy yet they are miserable. For others it may be the exact opposite, but the trick is to focus on what you have at the time. Working on changing your situation is great, but if you can't appreciate what you have when you have next to nothing, then you won't appreciate what you have when you have everything. Make sense? And if you need a way to start the process of being grateful try a 30 day gratitude journal. It's amazing to see what all we have to be thankful for when we write it down and watch it grow. Or, even better, watch this video and give this a try...



2.) Be around happy people. Misery loves company and there is nothing worse than a bunch of people trying to one up one another on their woe is me stories. On the other hand, happiness is contagious. Noni is absolutely the most happy person I have ever met and there hasn't been a single time I've gone to visit her and not left just a little happier than I was before I got there. Happy people make other people happier. It's that simple. Don't waste your time with miserable people. Life is too short to be miserable. Surround yourself with people that are happy and your own happiness is sure to be increased. If you are not a happy person this may be particularly hard, but chances are a happy person can find something great about you and will find a way to connect with you. Soon enough you'll not only like them more than you realized, but your happiness will begin increasing.

3.) Change your idea of ideal. I always thought my ideal happiness was being a stay at home Mom and having five children. After having Landon I was immediately told not to have anymore children and soon after realized that being a stay at home Mom wasn't for me. At first it was hard to adjust to an ideal life that I had never dreamed of, but with a little time I was able to restructure where my happiness could be achieved. I started a new job and actually gave it 100%. I found more satisfaction and pride in succeeding than I ever knew possible. I went on a trip that changed my life and the direction of where I wanted to go. When everything you've ever wanted/dreamed of is taken away from you it might not be easy to just redirect and find happiness elsewhere but it's all about baby steps. Try new things. Is there something you've always wanted to try? Take a class. Maybe you'll find your life's passion. You never know where it might lead. Or take your life experiences and use it for good. Volunteer. Create goals both short and long term. Short term goals will help keep motivate and long term goals will create focus. It's amazing that in just a year Adam and I have made huge leaps toward our ideal goal of living abroad. A bunch of small goals together have put us closer and along the way we've both become much happier.

4.) Stop comparing yourself to others. In some ways this goes along with being grateful and I think this is especially hard for women. Comparing what YOU see in others to what you don't like about yourself or life is amazingly detrimentally to your happiness. One of my favorite quotes from Prager is "the happiest people I know are the people that I don't know very well." We look at one quality we envy in a person and suddenly we want to be that person. Just because the person in front of you in line at the grocery store has the perfect body doesn't mean they have the perfect life. You can't amply a single aspect of a person into all categories of their life, but we do. We create this idea that because they look perfect then they must be perfect, their family must be perfect, their life must be perfect. Truth is, that just isn't true. Compare yourself to others in so much as it makes you be a better version of yourself. If you want a great body work for it and use others as a motivator to achieve what you want and not as tool to tear yourself down.

5.) Fake it. Faking it has two benefits, but would the hardest of all. Act happy all day and by the end of the day you'll be happy. It's like making yourself smile until you smile without even realizing it. A woman at the drive thru of a McDonalds once told my husband as she cheerfully collected his money "Fake it till you make it" She then proceeded to ask him which one he thought she was doing. Of course he assumed the middle aged woman collecting money at the drive thru of McDonalds was faking it, but she quickly corrected him that she was making it. Well good for her! Maybe for years she did fake it, but who would know? After repeatingly doing a task it becomes habit or second nature. Being happy is no different. The second benefit of faking it is that we owe it to others. Ever worked with a miserable person? Ever greeted a sale clerk who returned your smile with a dirty look? No one wants to be that person. An unhappy person can ruin the day of all of their co-workers and it isn't right. Or as Prager says, we have a moral obligation to others to ACT happy. If you are down right pissed off all day feel free to scream at everyone in your head, but on the outside smile, say hello, and be nice. Chances are they will return the favor and everyone will be that much better off for it. So fake it or make it, but just act happy.

When I was first beginning to watch tv in the hospital I could only watch about ten minutes of the news with all the sadness and depressing stories they covered. Instead, I watched hours and hours of the family channel including Beverly Hill Chihuahua...both 1 and 2. I think Adam thought I was crazy laughing and smiling at a silly movie directed at 7 year olds, but I needed happiness, silliness, and light hardheartedness in my dark world. Sometimes we can't fully grasp what it is we need when need it. Sometimes hope seems futile in our moments of despair. They key to living life is to find happiness. In the minute, grand, long term, short term, with ourselves, and from others. Everyone's happy place is different and no one's journey is the same. If I had one wish I would make everyone on earth as happy as Noni. I know that this world would be a much better place for it. But since I've yet to find that Aladdin's lamp I'll do what I can..baby steps. I resolve to get up in morning determined to not focus on what I don't have unless it's to make me work that much harder to achieve it. To be the happiest person I can be for myself and everyone I meet within the day even if that means sometimes faking it and to surround myself with happy people as much as possible. And the greatest achievement of my life will be going to bed every night with the ability to thank God for everything that I have.



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