In a word YES, we are the captains of our happiness. I’m not going to offer up platitudes here about life handing you lemons and you mix up some lemonade. There is value in sucking on the lemon for a while. Identifying, then unloading negative emotions clears our mental outlook. That said, what I am going to offer up are a few actions which help me get back to happiness after swallowing the lemon whole.
As we travel through life, our time on Earth is fraught with lots of gloomy events — a serious illness, a job layoff, an economic downturn. The list of negative life events and negative people can go on and on. Even something as simple as the weather — rain, a snow storm, a sunny day are occurrences we can’t control, yet may effect our outlook. What we can control is our mindset.
I will quote this truism, known as the Serenity Prayer. For me, it proves a potent reminder of the power of acceptance.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Engaging in what I call mind-spinning, worrying about what may come, drains us of energy and leads to nothing. Whatever is going to happen will happen whether we worry about it or not. Better to not worry about it at all.
This morning I re-visited my gratitude journal from seven years ago. Looking back at my life including my strengths, skills and accomplishments put me in a state of confidence, which led to a blissful feeling. Over the years I learned a gratitude journal can do wonders for shifting my mindset to one of positivity, abundance and happiness.
For anyone seeking happiness, start journaling daily, listing what is good about your life. Whether it’s a beautiful sunrise or sunset, the sighting of a blue bird in your yard, a child’s laugh at the grocery store, even a rain shower or a postcard view of a winter storm. Anything from what appears to be a minor, trivial thing to an awesome event, write it down.
Take inventory of your personal assets. I’m not talking about your material assets. As mentioned above look at your abilities, skills, strengths, those assets. That’s the stuff that got you this far and will take you through the remainder of your journey. Hopefully, you are still growing, expanding those assets. If not, cultivate curiosity about the world around you.
For many of us, we often associate happiness with occasions like buying a new car, shopping for a new outfit, taking a dream vacation, getting a promotion. That brand of happiness is momentary. The new car smell wears off, the outfit becomes last year’s style, the dream vacation but a memory. And promotions? Well, it’s lonely at the top.
It’s recognition of the everyday simple things, which provide a feeling of well-being. We can view our lives as one of scarcity or one of abundance. What we need to survive is basic food, clean air and water, shelter, clothing and a good night’s sleep. Everything else is an abundant life.
While I don’t want to hang my happiness on someone else’s happiness, it makes me feel light-hearted to do a good deed for someone. Volunteering for a favorite cause or just helping someone out through a chance meeting provides a shot of happiness. Recently, at the entrance to a building, I encountered a frail woman using a walker as she approached a car at the curb. Thinking she may need a hand getting into the car, I stopped and asked if I could help. Just then two young men stepped out from behind a thick column. I hadn’t seen her entourage. Their wide smiles and thank you’s for stopping lifted my spirits. And, all I did was offer assistance.
Along with not depending on someone else’s happiness to define your own, refrain from comparing yourself to others. In our social media world that is sometimes difficult to achieve. A number of people have mentioned how they only put positive aspects of their lives on Facebook as they want FB to be a fun place to visit. The downside to that view is other people begin thinking you have a lemonade life. No one is without a few lemons. It is a wonderful life, but no person has only good times. Keep that in mind when you feel the urge to compare.
If there is one truly important lesson I learned as a caregiver, it’s take care of yourself. In order for the good times to out weigh the negative, put some self-inflicted joy in your life. Do what makes you feel happy. Get out for a walk, join a gym, take a class, lose yourself in art, create a network of friends, meet someone for coffee or lunch, tour a museum or arboretum, get a massage, a manicure. I recently learned my supplemental health insurance policy covers gym memberships 100%! Now that’s a benefit to be happy about. A local college offers a 60 minute massage by an advanced student for only $20. Look for the happiness perks in your world.
No one is going to create happiness for you. As the Dalai Lama says, “Happiness is not ready-made. It comes from your own actions.” We are the captains of our happiness.