There was a saying going around in a previous business I was in that went something like this. “You can choose to be happy, or you can choose to be sad. But it’s better, wiser, smarter to choose to be happy.” And it was always said with this lilting lift at the end. Very Pollyanna. Honestly, it gave me that gag me with a spoon feeling. After all, if happiness was just a choice wouldn’t we all be happy?
I realized later that no one said it was easy to choose to be happy. Sometimes choosing happy is darn hard. And sometimes just thinking about being happy feels impossible. Certainly there are things that can contribute to a feeling that is not happiness. I’ve had those times in my life when I wondered what bomb was going to drop that day since it seemed that the figurative bombs dropping in my life were daily occurrences. And heavens! From October thru April being anything but extremely tired and as gray as the sky is a constant battle. Here are a few ways I have found to get through life’s tough challenges with more happy in my life. If you’re like me and find happiness a challenge maybe these little treasures will help you, too.
Choose to Smile
Happiness is a feeling. Smiling is muscle movement. And somehow when we move those muscles a little neon
sign lights up in the brain that says, “Happy!” So what about those mornings that I wake up with the doom and gloom feeling? I heard this little piece of advice from someone at Lularoe corporate on some training call. And I can’t remember who it was, or when exactly it was, so if you know please comment, and I’ll update this. He related an experience he had serving a mission trip and struggling with depression. A wise leader gave him this advice. When you first wake up, before you do anything else, smile. Just lay there and smile up at the ceiling, and count to 10.
It wasn’t too long after this that I had my own experience waking up completely gray and colorless. And I laid there and smiled up at the ceiling even though I felt like crying. And guess what? It worked. Was my life magically better? Did all the gloom and doom turn in to rays of sunshine? No! But I felt a little bit better, and able to get up and get moving.
Have a Happy Playlist
Plan in advance to have things in place for those gray days. Have a playlist of songs that help you feel upbeat, or to fight through the hard times.
I remember when one of my sons was going through the tough teenage years and listening to a lot of what I called “angry white boy music.” We finally just had to have a rule that such music could not be played in our house. Once he stopped listening to music full of outrage, defiance and hatred we saw a lot less of those emotions playing out in his daytime. The opposite is equally true. Listening to music that is about being happy, or that has a fun beat or melody, or gets our toes tapping will help chase those blues away.
You can check out a few songs from my Grit–gets me moving–playlist here.
You can check out songs from my happy playlist as soon as I write a blog post about it.
Find Some Good Humor
When it’s hard to see the humor in our own lives we can reach for someone else’s humor until we can. Keep some comic strips in print on hand for time you are avoiding the internet and the drama divas who lurk there. How about some Garfield, Dilbert, or Calvin and Hobbes–our family favorite.
Youtube is a great place for a little bit of make-me-smile. Comedians and humorists can help us see the humor in day to day situations. One day we’ll look back and laugh at our own mountainous molehills, but for now we can laugh at theirs. Just don’t fall down the rabbit hole of endless clicks while you are on there.
You can check out some of my favorite comedians here.
Cut Back on Junk Food
Get off the roller coaster of sugar high to sugar crash. It is cruel irony that we most want to reach for that comfort food, ice cream or donut when we absolutely shouldn’t. That sugar might give us a small burst of energy or a momentary feeling of indulgence and pleasure, but when that burns off whatever we were feeling before is just amplified in the crash.
Planning ahead is apparently a key strategy that is coming into focus as I write. On the good days prepare for the not so good ones. Have some healthy snacks on hand. Some of my favorites are celery and peanut butter or cream cheese, a handful of nuts–my favorites are pecans, a piece of fruit–still sugar, but at least some nutrition and fiber with it, and dark chocolate. Yes, chocolate makes the list! Look for chocolate as dark as you can enjoy. I can hit about 82% and still love it.
Sometimes resistance is futile. We reach for that sugar-filled goodness and the word no is barely a whisper. Answer that whisper every time with an acknowledgement like, “yes, I know this donut is really gross and won’t make me feel better.” Dan Ralphs, from the Dream Guru Blog writes about this behavior-changing self talk in this blog post.
Fresh Air & Sunshine
Face it with Faith
Once again the most important thing is at the end of the list. In my life there is simply nothing that takes the place of spending time with God. Yet in the very time we need Him most we can feel so far away from Him. Neill F. Marriott put it this way, “Our challenges can pull us off this course of happiness. We can lose our trusting connection to God if trials drive us to distraction instead of sending us to our knees.”
I love this line from the song “What if His People Prayed,” performed by Casting Crowns. “What if the family turned to Jesus, Stopped asking Oprah what to do.” I have nothing against Oprah. But how about we first turn to God, who is just waiting for us to come to Him, and let Him point us in the direction we should go.
This is my first major glitch creating my blog. I had finished writing, and was working on integrating graphics when some WP/Internet gremlin struck and have the blog post was gone. It is truly an example of trying to work through a situation with a smile on my face. I’m letting this sit for a couple days while my brain clears of half remembered wording and I can start these sections fresh.