I can’t believe how long it has been since my last blog post….9 months!! I have thought about writing many times, and I have written things down in my journal over the months, but I suppose life has just been too busy to pull it all together. Busy at work, busy at home, busy with family, and the unexpected things thrown my way in between all of the normal day-to-day responsibilities. In general, a lack of time, but really those are all excuses. I really enjoy writing… it is good for my mind, heart, and soul, and I should have made more time for it. There are countless times I should have traded my cell phone in for my writing pen and slowed down to do something I enjoy and find therapeutic. It’s a life lesson I am trying to remember every day…slow down, make time, and spend my time doing things more meaningful and purposeful.
As far as running goes, I have come a long way since my last post, which was a recap of my very first half marathon. After months of physical therapy, I battled my way back from my injury and I have learned the importance of adding regular stretching and strength exercises to my routine. I have also added two half marathons to my running journey – the Walt Disney World Princess half marathon in February, and the Disneyland Tinkerbell half marathon in May; both of which I was able to complete injury free! But for now, I will table any further running talk. Instead, I wanted to write about something I have had on my mind a lot lately and something that affects all of us….happiness. One simple word that carries so much weight in our lives. Every now and then someone will comment on my positive and cheerful demeanor, and this got me thinking about what makes us happy and how we can all achieve happiness each and every day of our lives. My life is not perfect, no one’s is. We all have things that we struggle with, that challenge us, that are hard, sad, and difficult. I have simply been learning not to focus on those things, and instead, challenging myself to always find the positives through life’s tougher times. I focus on my blessings, and the constants in my life that create life-long, sustainable happiness. Some days are harder than others, but I refuse to stop choosing to smile through it all and remain cheerful, hopefully inspiring others along the way to do the same. So today, I wanted to take some time to share my humble thoughts on achieving happiness through it all…
My 10 Key Ingredients to a Spoonful of Happiness
Happiness is a State of Mind
First, we have to understand the boundaries of happiness:
- Destination “happy” cannot be found on a map; it is a state of mind, not a destination.
- You don’t find it, you create it
- You don’t obtain it, you choose it
In my opinion, understanding these three big things is crucial to happiness, otherwise, we will spend our entire lives trying to chase it down, despite the fact that it was within our grasp the whole time. Happiness does not have a destination that we have to locate and make our way to, and there is no checklist we have to mark off in order to obtain it. We cannot have the mentality that it can be achieved once certain things line up and happen in our lives. Getting married, having kids, buying a house with a white picket fence, landing our dream job, making a certain salary, or wearing a certain size jeans will not gain us true happiness…that is not how it works. We have to make the choice every single day that our feet hit the floor that we will be happy no matter what our situation is and no matter what is thrown our way. There are so many things in life that are completely out of our control, situations that we cannot change, and these situations have us standing at a crossroad: we choose to be happy through it, or we choose to be angry and resentful through it.
My husband has always told me that we will never be able to change or control certain things in our lives, but what we can control is our reactions to them. Don’t wait for happiness to happen, don’t wait for it to fall in your lap, and don’t look to others to create it for you. Create it for yourself. Choose it every day. When we purposefully choose it day in and day out, happiness will eventually transition from a conscious choice to an unconscious habit, and we will simply be filled with happiness in our lives. And hopefully, that happiness becomes infectious to everyone around you.
True Happiness Cannot be Found in Things
Simply put, you will not find true happiness in things, but rather, it will be found within yourself, within your relationships, with family and friends, and in moments and memories. Can a new outfit or a new car make you happy? Of course they can! But this is what I consider to be fleeting happiness. Let’s use a new car as an example: The purchase of a new car is exciting and is likely to make us pretty happy, but for a relatively short amount of time. Eventually, the newness of that car will fade and it will just be a vehicle that gets us from point A to point B, and one day we will probably even consider it old, run down, and in need of being replaced. This car, this “thing”, has created what I consider to be fleeting happiness. When I use the term ‘true happiness’, however, I am talking about sustainable, long-lasting, memorable, and impactful happiness that stands the test of our time on this earth. The true happiness can be found in the places that car takes us…to birthday parties, holiday celebrations, on camping trips, vacations, baseball games, dance classes, weddings, family reunions, Grandmas house, the park, on dates, and the list is endless. It is the people who fill the car with us, the songs we sing or the games we play during those car rides. It’s the laughter that fills that small space and the conversations as we travel to and from. It is the journey, not the tool in which we used to get there…
When we look back on photos from our past, we don’t focus on the clothes we had on, the car we were driving at the time, the new tile floor we may have just had put in, or the nice, new couch we may have been sitting on. The things we cherish in those photos aren’t things at all, but rather the people, and the life experiences. True happiness is found in the moments, the adventures, and the memories we were creating. It lives within us…it surrounds us…it cannot be found in the physical things of this world.
Let the Little Things Go
When it comes to letting things compromise your happiness…pick your battles. Are you really going to let a long line at the grocery store or a rude cashier ruin your day? Is it really necessary to beat yourself up when you make a mistake at work or get a bad grade in one of your classes? Should you really be walking around with a “today completely sucks” mentality if your car breaks down, you are late for work, or you spill coffee on your favorite shirt? In the grand scheme of things, I consider these to be the little things and I try to let them go. They aren’t worth giving up happiness over. We’ve all heard the saying “Don’t sweat the small stuff” and this is why – all of the small things add up and make a big impact. Let it go, and save the energy for the big challenges that will inevitably come our way. As Carrie Underwood says, “Sometimes that mountain you’ve been climbing is just a grain of sand.”
The old saying is “take time to smell the roses”, and it really is great advice. These days, we are all busy, or if we aren’t busy, we quickly find something we think we should be doing. It seems harder for us to sit still, at least for me it does. There will always be tasks that need to be completed and the older I have gotten, the more I am coming to believe that there is no such thing as being completely caught up anymore. We will always have clothes to fold, dishes to wash, work deadlines to meet, celebrations to attend, meals to be prepared, doctor’s appointments…the list is endless and you know exactly what I mean. But even on the busiest of days, we can take a few moments to slow down. One of my favorite time of day to slow down is before I even get started. Since one of the things I love is my morning coffee, I try to sit in a quiet spot and take time to actually enjoy it. If we don’t intentionally take moments to slow down, we will find ourselves rushing through life so much that we aren’t soaking in and appreciating the things we enjoy doing and find happiness in. Take a walk and pay attention to the feeling of the sun soaking into your skin, sit on your porch and listen to the birds chirping, watch the sun set, notice the color of the trees and the flowers, talk to a friend on the phone, play a game with your kids, dance with your spouse, read, write… Take time to do the things that make your heart smile. Sometimes after a busy day at work, my husband will ask me to dance…we just listen to the words of a song and enjoy those very few minutes together…slowing down and appreciating that we have one another at the end of a busy, sometimes stressful day. Slowing down allows us to appreciate the gift of life, not take it for granted, and enjoy the little moments that matter so much.
Adjust Your Perspective
Perspective is everything, and this goes back to choosing to be happy. It is our choice how we view every situation we are handed. Let’s say you are sitting in awful traffic that isn’t moving and you are inevitably going to be late for work. Inconvenient? Sure. For me, perspective settles in really fast though when the ambulance flies by my car. Maybe traffic is an inconvenience, but at least I am safe, and sadly, someone else might not be. Recently, I have tried to change my perspective on Monday’s. It is not uncommon these days to start seeing posts on social media on Sunday afternoons about the weekend already being over and dreading the arrival of Monday. I am trying to stop thinking of Monday’s as a bad thing and instead, view it as a fresh start to a new week…a week that will be full of new memories and experiences. I am choosing to be thankful that I lived to see another Monday, and thankful that I have a job to go to that provides for my family. Overall, I try to look at the challenges and struggles I face differently than I did before and focus on what I can learn from them. When facing a difficult situation, ask yourself how you can be strengthened and molded to be an even better person by facing this situation. What can you learn? How can you grow? How can I perceive this as a positive thing in my life? Your perspective is your looking glass on life….make it as clear and beautiful as you can.
Focus on the Positive
Now it’s time to focus that looking glass on the positive and try to keep it there. We have two choices in every situation: focus on the positive, or focus on the negative. Can’t we all agree that by focusing on the positive side of every situation, this will leave room in our lives for more happiness? I say if life hands you lemons, toss those things to the side and count your strawberries. I don’t know…I just picked a fruit that seemed sweeter and more likable, but you get the point. Do not focus on the lemons in life, but rather, focus on all of the sweet things you love in your life. Count your blessings often. Focus on what you do have. Consider keeping a thankful journal and writing down all of the positive things and experiences in your life. Write in it often and then pull it out and read it on the harder days to refocus on all the good in your life. Also, don’t fall into the trap of focusing on what others have. Worrying about what other people have and comparing it to your life takes away the focus from all of the positive things you do have and discredits it.
Life is Too Short
Life is too short not to be happy, plain and simple. I recently stumbled across a calculator that allows you to enter your birth date and it provides various life calculations, all the way from how many times your heart has beat, how many breaths your lungs have taken, and how many weeks you have lived. One of these numbers hit me pretty hard though. It calculated that on average, I have about 2,022 Saturdays left. Wow. Um…ok, WOW. Life is too short not to make every day count, not to try with all of our might to focus on the positive and the make the best of what we have. Let’s think about those dreaded Mondays again…if I have an average of only 2,022 Saturdays left in my life, I have about the same number of Mondays left as well. Do I really want to waste that many days of my life being disgruntled that the weekend is over and I have to go back to work? Talk about changing my perspective on Mondays! And let’s not forget that these average calculations are based on us being blessed with the ability to live our lives to an old age. Unfortunately, this is not something everyone has the privilege to be able to do; too many lives are taken too soon. Live the fullest and happiest you can every single day because this is not a dress rehearsal…we don’t get a repeat of this life we have been given.
Don’t Grow Up Too Much
Don’t grow up…it’s a trap! This one is my favorite, it’s very “me”. Maybe I should consider it my secret ingredient in this whole happiness thing. Look, I am a perfectly grown up grown-up…I have a full-time job, I am raising kids, I pay bills, keep up a home, etc. etc. However, I am still a big kid at heart. One of the things I love is Disney, and I feel like this is where a lot of my childlike heart comes from. Disney is all about imagination, magic, dreams coming true, and feeling footloose and fancy-free…and I want more of this every single day. People that know me are not surprised if I wear my Mickey ears on a random day. I will skip through my neighborhood if the mood strikes me, burst out in song or dance, ride the carousel at the mall, get the huge lollipop, wear the tutu, play arcade games, go to the pumpkin patch, jump on the bed, watch Disney movies, listen to Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious on my way in to work, and have an Alice in Wonderland themed birthday party. This list could go on and on! The point is that there is no age in which we have to stop enjoying the simple, silly, more childlike things in life. These small things make me pretty darn happy, especially since being a grown-up has plenty of responsibilities and harder times to deal with. Relax, don’t take life so seriously all the time. Laugh more, sing more, dance more, and enjoy being a big kid every now and then…it does wonders for your soul.
Care a Little Less
Wait…did I just suggest that you care less?? Why yes I did, but let me clarify. I care deeply about others…about my family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and even strangers. I love people, I love helping others, I love making others smile every chance I can, and I want everyone to be happy (I call this my Mary Poppins syndrome!) This is not the kind of caring I am talking about though. For this particular purpose (figuring out how to unlock the key to your own happiness), we kind of have to care less about what others think about us. Let’s use my previous key to happiness about not growing up too much as an example. I am sure that there are plenty of people out there who think that singing Disney songs all the way into work is stupid, childish, and ridiculous. However, this is a harmless ingredient to my personal happiness….I have to let their opinions go and not care about what they think. Because caring about others’ opinions so much that it changes a behavior or activity that we enjoy will ultimately only take away and destroy our happiness. We end up getting sucked into a loop of trying to change who we are to satisfy others or fit into their mold. Sometimes you have to worry less about others people’s opinions because they aren’t healthy for us to hold on to. Simply put, just be you. Unapologetically you, and surround yourself with people that love you just the way you are, with no exceptions.
Fear No More
It’s hard to be completely happy if you are always afraid. Fear is a powerful thing, and it will destroy happiness faster than we can blink. For me, this is a key ingredient that I still work on constantly. Life experience, prayer, exercise, and slowing down have helped me a lot with letting it go. Anxiety has tried to rip me apart for a lot of my adulthood, it ebbs and flows, but with every wave that has been sent my way, it has tried to steal my joy. Running is one of the things that has helped me tremendously with fear, anxiety, and worry. It’s one of the reasons I love running so much…it gives me the gift of freedom from these things and it makes me stronger emotionally and mentally in addition to physically. I have also recently had some big “wow” moments which have made me realize that many times, the things we are fearing aren’t things to be feared at all, and those things usually turn out fine. The things that we worry about aren’t likely to be the things that will ever happen so fearing them only takes away our “now”. It will steal every single day we are blessed with if we let it. It will control us and take away the happiness we so rightfully deserve in life.
It is part of human nature to be fearful of things throughout our lives, but I am trying to give it all to God and remember that He has every situation under control. When I feel the wave of fear coming my way now I remember His promise to us and rest in the comfort of His word.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
These were simply some of my humble thoughts on how we can be the happiest version of ourselves. As Mary Poppins says, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”, and I like to think that this spoonful of ingredients will help us get through life and be more full, meaningful, and joyous. I recognize that some days are harder than others, and I also recognize that many people have much harder situations to navigate through life with. I only hope that some of these ingredients can help us all have sweeter, happier days in our lives.
I want to insert a small dose of personal experience here. My husband suffers greatly from debilitating migraines. He just recently told me that this year has been the worst year of his entire life, which I already knew, but hearing him say it broke my heart even more. I cannot imagine the pain he experiences day in and day out, but I can visually see how much joy in life that has been taken from him. I don’t really have words that would do any justice to how much sadness this creates in my heart and my soul…I have cried more times than I can count watching him suffer and over the loss of my once active and happy husband. A good friend of mine recently told me that they had no idea he was suffering so much, and that my pictures on social media seemed to portray that everything was fine, perfect even. I reflected on this and realize a couple of things I wanted to share:
First, I realized from this conversation that I am choosing happiness, even during the difficult, less than ideal times. It’s easier on some days, and more challenging on others, but the reason I only share the happy times is because I choose to focus on the positive, on what I do have, and not what has been taken away from my husband and my family. When we focus on the negative we give it too much power over our lives. The happy days are the memories I want to hold in my mind and my heart, the days he feels better and is able to smile and enjoy life a little. The second thing it made me realize is that you never know what someone is going through, and you never know what is behind someone’s smile. For this reason alone, it is so incredibly important to be kind to everyone we meet, and never make assumptions or pass judgments. We have no idea what is really going on behind someone’s smile; maybe they are simply choosing to be happy through a very difficult time in their lives. Maybe they chose the happy path that was lying at that crossroad before them, and they are creating their own happiness no matter what. In a world where you can be anything…be happy, and be kind.
I hope that each and every one of your spoons overflow with happiness every single day.
With all my sole –