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Can I choose to be happy

According to Mister Groundhog, it is going to be an early spring.  I don’t know about where you live, but the amount of sunshine I have seen in the past several weeks has left me feeling very “springy.”

There is just something about spending time in the warm sun that is naturally energizing.  In fact, I’m pretty sure there is scientific proof that spending time in the sun increases our overall happiness.

I think it is safe to say that it is a universal goal of most people to be happy, but it’s probably not something that we write down and concentrate on as a goal.

I think it’s more likely that our goals are…

“When I lose 10 pounds, then I’ll be happy”

“When I get a new job, then I’ll be happy”

“When we buy a new house, then I’ll be happy”

You get the picture.  We all want to be happy, but it is easy to get caught up in the belief that happiness will come when our circumstances change.  But once they do change, how long does the new happiness last? Not long on its own.  Research done at the University of California Riverside found these statistics around happiness.

What determines happiness

Our circumstances can be a good excuse for not experiencing happiness, but the stats show otherwise.  If only 10 percent of our happiness is determined by our circumstances, then it can be really dangerous to put our happiness on hold, while waiting for our circumstances to change.

Of course, a loss in life, such as death, divorce, or loss of a job or any important relationship can cause a definite degree of sadness.  However, that sadness does not have to be a permanent state.  It can be hard to see happiness during a time of loss, and it is crucial to be honest with those sad feelings as they come. However, it is just as important to realize that although we have to recognize our own negative feelings, we don’t have to set up camp and live in that state.

Facing a loss with the support of understanding friends and family can be healing and help bring stability and an overall sense of well-being during hard times, allowing happiness to find a pathway back into daily life.

After my divorce there were some difficult, frustrating and, yes, some sad times.  And even though life had thrown me in an unanticipated position, I chose to work hard for a chance to maintain a healthy happy life.  I accepted the sad times as they came and indulged myself in a couple of cry fests, but overall I would say that I was mostly happy.

Then a few years later when I got engaged to a new man, a good friend said “Oh, I’m so glad to see that you’re happy.”

I almost got a little defensive.  My instant thought was “Who says I wasn’t happy on my own.  Why do I have to have a fiancé or husband to be happy?  I can be perfectly happy all by myself, thank you very much!!”

Of course, I didn’t actually say those things.  I know she didn’t mean any harm.  She was being genuine and sweet.  In fact I might have said the same thing to someone else in similar circumstances.

I suppose I was just a little surprised by my own knee-jerk reaction to her expression of joy for me.

Do I need someone else’s approval before I can be happy?  Do I need to have all of my “ducks in a row” at all times to be content with my life?

I guess I have proven to myself over some difficult years, that “no, I don’t” have to have perfect circumstances in order to be happy.

There have certainly been times when I have been stressed or excited about some upcoming event. I recognize that sense of anxiety in my body as a sign that the stress is building up. There is always something around the corner that demands my attention. Sometimes it’s something fun. Sometimes it’s something busy but necessary. But wherever it comes from, it can cause stress and anxiety. What I have learned to do as those stressors begin to take a toll on my mind and body, is to stop… analyze how I am at that exact moment, and say to myself.

Right now, in this moment, I am happy”

And just as I say it, I begin to feel it.

Being afraid for the future doesn’t have to affect my ability to be happy right now.

Preparing for something fun that will happen in the future doesn’t mean I can’t also be happy right now.

Working hard and anticipating something stressful that I need to give attention to doesn’t mean I can’t stop for a moment, take a breath, and be happy in just this one quiet moment.

For me the time that I most often remind myself that “Right now, I am happy” is as I’m pulling into my garage.  It is a routine moment.  At that moment I don’t have to be figuring anything out, or calculating my budget, or planning out dinner.  For that one moment I recognize that I can choose to be happy.

I smile to myself as I’m climbing out of my car.

I know that life is good.

I can choose to be happy in this moment and let that carry over into the rest of my life.

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