It is amazing to me that I have finally come to understand that happiness is not some illusive thing only for the rich and famous, or the accomplished, or the lucky ones, or the people we put on pedestals. In fact, some of the happiest people in the world are considered poor, unlucky, unaccomplished, uneducated, and the list goes on. The truth of the matter is, happiness has nothing at all to do with status, but has everything to do with making the right turns in your thinking to adjust to whatever circumstance life throws at you. I am not quite sure exactly how the concoction is mixed, but I think it looks a lot like this, at least it does for me.
- Your Childhood Lessons learned, good, bad and ugly.
- Your Teen Years: Adjusting to raging hormones as the body races toward adulthood, and peer pressure from groups that test individuals with judgments and comparisons.
- Family Life and Friends: People who teach you how to figure out life and chances are there is a lot of bad thinking being passed on along with those nuggets of truth.
- School & Work Life: If you didn’t have the same learning style as your superiors, you may have thought you weren’t good enough, or were stupid, or that it was too hard. If you had good teachers and bosses who encouraged you, you may have thrived.
- Bumps in the Road: Tragedies, unexpected changes, illnesses, and loss of significant caretakers or soulmates can flip you on your back like a turtle and you can get stuck.
- DNA: We are given a certain set of genes that can manifest as either positives or negatives throughout our lives.
So then what is one to do when life throws you a curve ball? How does one survive and then regroup, move on, and thrive when one has been overwhelmed? From my personal experiences I can honestly say that every hardship left me with a choice as to how I would respond, and thereby either benefit from the situation or be hindered by it. Thank God for me that I have had angels in my life. These are people who have picked me up and carried me at crucial junctures in my life, where maybe I would have given up all hope and fallen into despair, had not they intervened. But there have been times when I have allowed despair to win for a while. Grief is a teacher, the one struck by it must be a willing student. It’s ok if you were dropped into uncertainty in your life, it may feel like a whirlwind out of control, so how do you come out of it? For me, I do the first thing that comes to mind that I can control. It may be something as simple as doing the laundry. Below is a list of ideas that I use that help me overcome:
- I put myself in the presence of those I love and who love me. These are my children, my grandchildren and my friends. I do this especially when I would rather be alone.
- I create something. Because I am an artist I may paint like a mad scientist, or I may write, sing, or play the piano. I may even cook or do some gardening, anything creative that I can do that puts me in the driver seat.
- I spend time outdoors.
- When I had pets they were a great comfort to me.
- I exercise. This could be put at the top of this list because of all the benefits it gives especially the endorphins that get produced. (Yoga, bike riding and lifting weights, are my favorite outlets)
- I often pray, meditate, or listen to music.
- Above all else, I realize that this is a temporary moment in my life. I know it won’t be long before something positive occurs.
Trust me when I tell you, I have struggled with many difficult hardships in my life that have left me confused and in pain. At one point in my life when I was in pain, I formulated a mental picture which I have never forgotten. I envisioned myself in a garden much like one you would see in England, I would imagine. It consisted of tall sculpted bushes creating a labyrinth, and I found myself stuck in the middle not knowing which way to turn. I felt guided only by my gut instincts. (If you ever saw the David Bowie movie Labyrinth, you would know what I mean.) In this imagined maze of mine, there were hidden doors you could advance through if you have eyes to see. The point is that life can be like a maze, and we are always trying to get to the destination of happiness by the shortest route. We may take a few wrong turns along the way, so we have to be patient.I have come to believe that in many circumstances we are so programed by our past experiences that we often become fearful of what could happen when faced with a new dilemma.
This is how I try to work through the process:
- I think of people who I admire and study how they handle conflict resolution, and how they carry themselves in times that were trying. I often ask myself what traits about my heroes do I want for myself?
- Then I take a good look at myself and decide what traits about myself am I sick and tired of living with? Am I tired of being afraid? Do I have anger problems? Am I unable to focus on my goals? Am I unable to figure out what I want? Am I sad for too long after a trauma or a sad life occurrence ? I ask myself how I wish I could respond and from that I have my homework. The real truth is, we are often unnecesarily unhappy because we think we have no solutions to our problems so we seek answers outside of ourselves. Often this can lead to all sorts of problems in peoples lives such as drug and alcohol abuse, relationship conflicts etc. So the key is, we must obtain new tools for our toolbox. Then, when you know what you need, you get the right tool to get the job done!
I know I can go on a rant so I’ll dial it back. Please feel free to have dialog with me because sometimes we all need a little encouragement. I am not a doctor, nor a professional healthcare provider, or any such thing. But I have been through the school of hard knocks, and I am hard at work on my self awareness and self improvement journey, and it’s working!
I want to end this blog by telling you about someone who has inspired me in many ways. This person is my friend Sue, and she has stood by me since the day I met her. Sue has three sons and a daughter and I believe 9 grandchildren! She has overcome some serious stuff, and among them was type 2 Diabetes. She was suffering for a long time and then she did research on this subject and realized that she had the potential of having control over how this disease could effect her life. Sue set her mind to the hard but rewarding work of reprograming how she lived her life. Soda was quickly replaced by water, and carbs and sugar were quickly put in their place. Sue could have given up but she didn’t. It is now years later and I know all of her children and grandchildren are happy that she takes such good care of herself. She still has other health issues to manage, but she takes care of herself, and makes sure that what brings her happiness is always at her fingertips, and that happiness is being able to be right in the trenches with her family. Sue’s family stands as a testimony to what true love looks like to all who know them.
So come on, its time to kick bad thinking to the curb and find out what really makes you happy? I say let’s GO FOR IT!!!