If you are like me, you have, at times, had a complicated relationship with happiness. Knowing that we’ve been blessed with many resources and freedoms that other people were not born into, personally, I feel I should always maintain a smile. Something like, regardless of our circumstances, we should always be able to muscle our way deep down and find happiness.
Does this sound familiar?
One morning last week, I woke up after a horrible sleep and felt overwhelmed with grief. To get out of bed simply felt like too much. I struggle with SAD each year, but those feelings have been amplified given the latest wave of isolation. And trying to get a grumpy kid out the door to school just made matters worse.
It was my husband’s birthday; I should at least try to be happy… but I couldn’t even fake it, not for him, not for me. So I got the kids off to school, and I laid back down in my bed, curled up, and just cried. I wondered if I was truly at my breakpoint. It felt like the world had become an isolated, masked, cold dark place.
Finally, after 90-minutes, I forced myself into the shower. I walked out, and my husband said, “are you OK?” And again, a lump swelled in my throat, and I just started to cry.
We decided to get out of the house and hit a local coffee shop. My red puffy eyes glaring over my cool tiger print mask. The woman behind the counter also had her mask on, so it was hard to read her.
Her – “How’s everybody doing today?”
Me – “I just, you know…..,” I started to well up again, and she could see it. “I’m doing, OK, just a little winter blues, but I feel terrible because it is his birthday, and I am ruining it…..”
Her – “Oh, do you need a hug?
I paused. I thought she must be joking. Wasn’t she worried about catching something from me? Should I be worried?
Me – “Yeah, actually, I do.”
And with that, this woman walks around the counter, comes right up to me, and gives me this BIG hug. For the next few minutes, we laughed a bit and had a great conversation sharing all of the things we are grateful for. She shared how happy she is to be in a new home this winter. We shared how great it is to see our kids embracing winter sports.
After checking out with our butter tarts and coffee, I realized I felt so much BETTER! A simple act of prioritizing the emotional needs of another human over concerns of social distancing and viruses impacted me. It’s been a long time since I felt seen by a stranger.
As fragile as the thin veneer of happiness and reality appears to be, unrealized yet genuine reasons to be happy are happening, whether we realize it or not.
It may look and feel like this:
- I know I will be happy when my boss acknowledges the extra work I put in to close the deal. But, you have key co-workers who usually compliment your extra efforts.
- I will be happy when my kids help out around the house. But, your partner or spouse helps regardless.
- If I could only get the promotion, I know I would be happy. But, the company has elevated your position and responsibility in preparation for something, maybe a promotion.
And yet, when those things and other unexpectant joys or expectations are met or even exceeded, we don’t feel happy.
Why is this?
Why do well-intended and hard-working professionals miss out on happiness?
Studies show that some people with the best of circumstances are miserable. They are unhappy because their approach to happiness is slightly misaligned.
For example, happy people are socially connected. We were made for relationships and connection. So, if some of your previously unmet expectations are being met and you are not interacting with people, you may not feel connected to the positive outcomes.
Happy people have a gratitude-saturated mindset. When circumstances fail, these people don’t live in the clouds or denial. Instead, they have gone “all in” on gratitude regardless of their circumstances. As a result, they are mentally and emotionally predisposed to be grateful and seek positive outcomes when circumstances don’t go their way or completely fail.
When we engage in behaviors to reframe our outlook and perspective, happiness will be a natural by-product in most, if not all, circumstances.
In a quiet moment, ask yourself:
What is working now? Make a list! Then, whatever those things are, find ways to acknowledge and celebrate them, especially when things are constant or consistent. When doing this, you are training your mind to observe and celebrate, perhaps the simple, even when things are “constant.”
Who is trying? Who are the people who show up every day or week and communicate, with their behaviors, “I am for you” or “I am doing this for your sake…..” These people are to be honored, celebrated, and cherished. And if we are honest, most of us have a few people in our lives who we need to acknowledge. So if you really want to feel happy, send them a note to thank them for being part of your support system!
What new risks am I taking? When was the last time you took a risk, chance, or stretch assignment? Remember, you are more resilient than you realize. Usually, we aren’t aware of just how resilient we really are until we are stretched. Taking on a new challenge or taking a calculated risk can refresh your mind, challenge your assumptions, build your confidence, and ignite new levels of accomplishment, which makes many of us happier!
So what about you: What are you doing to grow happier right now?