Hankering for Happiness? By Terri White My oldest son thinks eating is a waste of time. If there was a pill, he’d go for it. Most likely, he’ll never need to lose weight! But a pill. How about a pill for happiness? Wouldn’t THAT be grand!
How, though, do we find happiness? Sadly, many have forgotten – especially these past two years. So much negativity in the world has poked its head up in every arena. Soaring national and international problems face us, like looming mountains draped in dread.
Too often, people think happiness stems from emotions, but it doesn't. Emotions will fool us and fail us. Like a kaleidoscope of feelings, emotions can’t be trusted because they don’t always originate from truth.
As complicated beings, we humans often experience trauma and then bury it. When triggers activate those emotions, we surrender to them, creating an emotional roller coaster lifestyle.
For help, doctors prescribe anti-depressants, but they only flatline us emotionally. We don’t feel happy, nor do we feel sad. In fact, we feel nothing. Although that’s not living, it may temporarily help us survive a season of life – but only survive, not thrive. And we should be thriving, not just surviving.
Norman Cousins stated that “the tragedy of life is not death, but what we let die inside of us while we live.” So how do we thrive?
1. Find out who you are. Without it, you will never achieve happiness. Trying to be like others will only make you miserable because only you can be you. So dig beneath the emotional clutter to find that hidden gem.
2. While you are excavating, pay attention to your “head noise”. The real you lies beneath all that yammering about your trauma, inadequacies, and if-onlies. Learn to hear the stillness – the real you - underneath those thoughts that plague you. Listening to that stillness reduces stress, which leads to happiness.
3. A thankful mindset helps us focus on the positive side of life instead of the problems (that we all have). If you struggle with that, find at least one thing in your life for which you can express gratitude. Baby steps.
4. What do you enjoy? Don’t know? Then try something. Anything. A painting class. Volunteering. Reading a book. Refinishing a piece of furniture. Lunch with friends. Bike riding. Cooking. Rescuing dogs. Helping a neighbor. Changing careers. The options are limitless no matter what your budget. There’s something for everyone.
5. Get fresh air and exercise to produce endorphins, the happy hormone.
6. Treat yourself well by respecting yourself and staying healthy.
7. Are your children preschoolers? Swap babysitting with a friend for a little break. Or join a mother’s day out program. Then pamper yourself with a pedicure, massage, reading a book, or napping. Keep it simple. No need to break the bank. Choose what works for you.
8. Kids driving you crazy? Schedule regular dates so each one gets your undivided attention. Tight budget? Create affordable memories by playing games, hiking, bike riding, working on a project, or volunteering with charities like Meals-On-Wheels. The possibilities are limitless. Eating out and movies are unimaginative. Get creative! Every kid should experience memories of one-on-one time with both his parents. You’ll feel revived, too.
9. Do you need new friends? Then join something you enjoy to meet new people. Meetup.com, a wonderful resource, offers a group for every interest. Even my introverted husband found a music jam on Meetup that meets monthly, and he loves it. While making new friends, he’s scratching his music itch. Friendships enrich our lives. You don’t need a dozen, so don’t fret if your circle is small.
10. Helping others is great therapy. There’s something magical that happens inside of us when we selflessly lend a hand to another person. It not only brightens the other person’s day but yours as well. Don’t complicate it. It can be as simple as mowing an elderly neighbor’s yard or cooking a meal for a sick friend. If you like children, numerous charities like East Cleburne Community Center offer programs for at-risk kids; they always need volunteers. Meals-On-Wheels provides daily meals to the elderly and sick, which sometimes is the only human contact in their days – a side benefit to delivering the meals to their homes. Every community offers many opportunities to lend a hand.
11. Finally, don’t neglect your husband, wife, or partner. Relationships can only thrive when we invest in them. Nurture that relationship so that you can grow together into your sunset years. Without a doubt, every single human on this planet experiences troubles. No one is exempt. Your struggles are not more or less significant than mine. Just different. Nonetheless, for the rich and poor, healthy and sick, famous and unknown, life offers us all opportunities for happiness. There’s always a silver lining – even on the cancer ward or at a dump city.
Find yourself somewhere in those suggestions. Take one baby step. No need to master mountain climbing in a day. Perhaps what makes you happy is as simple as gardening. So garden. Life is made up of moments. Often life-changing moments. You be you and let others be themselves. Then watch your happiness barometer skyrocket – “like a room without a roof”.