Monday, August 1, 2011

Insert Smiley Face

I knew I had spent far too much time in the dentist waiting room the other week when I finished one copy of a Good Housekeeping magazineand was moving on to the second. Despite the final dentist verdict following three kids check-ups were: one with three cavities, one needing sealant on permanent molars, and one whose loose tooth was confirmed. I felt happy. I'll tell you why.

I read an article on happiness, and I realized I am happy. And that realization felt so good! Now, don't get me wrong, I have days that it would be difficult to even pretend to have a smile on my face, and there are definite moments (and days) of discouragement and despair, but I can honestly say I feel happy. I am a firm believer that happiness doesn't come easily--it is a daily, constant battle, but a battle that I'm gaining the upper hand at. (Wish I could say that about all the 'battles' I'm fighting!)

Between the dentist office's magazine, and a little good 'ole evaluation, these are a few of the reasons I feel that I can be happy amid the not so happy things in life.

Gratitude -- For several years it seemed every so often I had a reminder to start a gratitude journal. In addition to my personal journal by my bed, I felt the need to have just a 'Gratitude Journal', where each night I wrote just "I'm grateful for..." I had heard all sorts of statistics about how being grateful can change one's whole outlook on life. But for some reason, I kept putting the journal off, until an experience a few years ago. I was in a leadership position in my church, and had the responsibility to take some food and briefly visit the family of a family member who had just passed away, at their own hands. A sad situation. For days, I couldn't stop thinking of the tragedy, that for whatever reason, someone felt such despair that they chose to end their life. During those days, I felt an overwhelming gratitude for a healthy mind. And so with no further ado, I purchased an attractive notebook and wrote my first entry: "Grateful for a healthy mind." Now the notebook has a permanent place on my bedside dresser and I try to write in it daily.

Now, don't get me wrong. Believe me, there are some days the only entry I can come up with are, "Grateful the day is over." or "Grateful my kids are asleep and I don't have to interact with any of them for several hours." But--even at the end of 'one of those days' and especially at the end of 'those types of days', I force myself to find something to be grateful for. And there is always something.

Relationships--The particular article I read referred to a study that claimed if you have at least five close people that you can share personal information with, you are more likely to be happy. I have been blessed to have some really great close friends and my relationship with Mike is one that is deeply satisfying and fulfilling. I am certainly blessed to have at least five close people I can share my deepest thoughts, fears, and dreams with. I can think of several people I have spent time with in the last few weeks either crying, laughing, speculating, dreaming, or planning. For this I feel truly blessed.

Exercise--I really can't believe I'm even considering this as a contributor to my happiness, but I do. It isn't that I love exercise and have a big smile on my face as I'm breathing hard and dripping sweat. The opposite is true, ask my regular exercise partner Lori how many times I say, "I hate running" or "I hate exercising" during our sessions. BUT, I have clearly found over the last year that regular exercise makes a HUGE difference to my mental health. For me, the satisfaction from exercise doesn't come while I'm doing it, it comes when I look in the mirror some days and feel discouraged by my flubby tummy, or my saggy arms and think, "At least I'm doing something about it, sometimes." God has blessed me with very good health--I enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing I try to remain active and healthy. (Even if I do enjoy dessert a little too much!)

Enjoying the moments--I know, I know, I sound like a broken record in this department, so I'll be brief... Since I have made a more conscious effort to really truly be more present in moments, it has made a world of difference. There is so much happiness and joy that can come from the little things in life. I give the credit entirely to Mike for helping me see this.

Acceptance--"Be yourself, every one else is taken" I'm not quite sure exactly when, I think perhaps it has been a gradual process over the last ten years or so, but I have reached a point in my life where I have accepted myself for who I am, and accepted my circumstances for what they are.  Of course there are still qualities I'm striving to achieve and some I'm working to get rid of, but I am who I am.  "Today you are you, that is truer than true, there's no one alive who is you-er than you."

I've had an 'underlying relationship snag' that has sort of ruled my world for most of my adult life. It has always seemed a thorn in my side, and finally last year as it resurfaced yet again during a particular situation, Mike gave me some grand advice. I took his advice and have felt more liberated because of it. In essence Mike's advice was similar to this quote I was reminded of just this morning, "Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who matter don't mind, and those who mind don't matter." (Of course all done within reason and tact, but you get the general idea...)

Priorities--For the most part, I work very hard to make sure my priorities are aligned correctly. I know what is important to me and my little family, and I'll do what I need to, to put those things first. Sometimes I'm too strict in this area and often hear from my dear husband, "Can't you be more flexible?"

(Which totally off the subject, but along the 'being flexible lines'--when I was SEVEN months pregnant with Ellie, Mike was doing Yoga in our basement with his brother and sister-in-law. (My sis-in-law was convinced Yoga would help Mike's back.) I don't think Mike lasted five minutes--he can't even sit cross-legged--but me, SEVEN months pregnant was more flexible than all three of them put together! Of course that was seven plus years ago--I don't know as I can make that same claim. Well, I can against Mike--I am more PHYSICALLY flexible than him.)

Oh dear, I digress--back to prioritizing...
I'm not afraid to tell somebody 'no' and I try my hardest to rarely do anything out of obligation. I allow myself time to think about what I want to commit to, and for the most part we keep our commitments to others simple. One of my favorite things is empty space on our calendar.

Believe me, I am not the master of happiness, but overall, I would certainly consider myself 'Happy'.  I recognize so much more than the few things I listed above, as to why I feel optimism, happiness and joy in my life. I am truly blessed. There is so much despair, heartache, pain, and gloom that exists in the world, in our own little communities, in our own families, and our own lives. But happiness is within our reach. Now if I could master a few of these:

--thinking more positively
--letting go of perfectionism in some areas
--loving others a little more
--being less judgemental

I could probably be even happier, ...but I'm not exactly a miracle worker.

Happiness.
Are you happy?
What makes you happy?
What could make you happIER?

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