Jul 23, 201210:15 AMKeeping it Real
C'mon, Get Happy
In the Editor's note I wrote for the July issue, I mentioned that I'm working—working really hard—to find happiness. I'm a believer that happiness is in our every day processes and is not something to be sought out, the end of a journey, but rather a way of living, a part of the everyday fabric that makes up life. The fact that my search for happiness came at the same time as some of the toughest challenges I've faced is not a coincidence--it was the challenges that pushed me to find my way to happy.
A long time ago, I found that when I was on the phone with difficult people (a commonplace event as I was a help desk technician), it made a big difference if I smiled. I looked crazy, but the smile filtered through my voice and helped to soothe the beast on the other end of the phone. A smile did all that.
Nowadays, when I'm with the kids and I get frustrated, I try to wipe away the stress by making jokes or being silly; when tempers are flaring, especially in the kids, that little bit of levity makes a big difference, heads off the impending tantrum and lightens the load. I try to live the example of being happy for the sake of happiness; of waking up and choosing to find the silver lining, and I've found that the more I try to do that? The less I have to try. It becomes a knee-jerk reaction.
This was driven home when I watched a news program about a woman who recently had lost her job and had to visit a food pantry. She brought her children with her and felt like a huge failure for doing so, she didn't want them to see what was happening. But instead of just seeing the storm cloud, what a great time to look for the silver lining; what a wonderful blessing to have a place to turn to in times of dire need. It's a wonderful moment to teach children that when you have more, you do more--in their time of need, people were there to help; when they get back on their feet again, they have the opportunity to be there for someone else who might have a difficult time. When talking about the death of my father, which shook me to the core and for whom I still grieve, I remind my kids that we have to look at the silver lining, that my father lived a long life and he is now free from pain. It's not easy. Life is filled with reasons to be sad, hurt, angry, upset; but if you focus on rain, you miss the rainbow.
Want to know more about finding happiness in your daily life? Here are some books that I've read on my journey to finding happy:
- The Happiness Project (by Gretchen Rubin, $15, Harper Perennial): A month-by-month journey to find happiness and focus on projects to build happiness. An engaging and uplifting memoir.
- The World Book of Happiness (by Leo Bormans, $30, Firefly Books): A collection of essays on happiness from around the world, the collected writers share their thoughts and experiences on happiness along with what they consider to be the four keys of happiness.
- One Good Deed a Day: A Journal ($15, Chronicle Books): Happiness and kindness seem to go hand in hand, don't they? This book of 365 simple suggestions (plus blank pages to create your own deeds) will encourage you to make a positive difference and spread happiness.
- Operation Beautiful: Transforming the Way You See Yourself One Post-it Note at a Time (Caitlin Boyle, $17, Gotham): I love the action items in this book: take a post-it note. Write something encouraging on it. Post it where someone will unexpectedly find it. When I travel, I bring a pad of notes and a marker and leave notes in my wake.