I woke up happy today.
The feeling of excitement and possibility mixed with a dash of contentment was humming inside my chest when I opened my eyes today. As I made coffee the feeling continued, making the chore effortless. As the milk warmed and I heard the steady stream of coffee percolating, I took a deep breath and enjoyed the moment.
But then my mind started to work.
You know that revving up of the engine that is our brain as it begins to think about what you have to do today, what you didn’t get done yesterday and what is waiting to be done tomorrow? What side dish am I going to make with the ham today? Do I have brown sugar? Are stores open today? Why didn’t I plan this better? What time should we eat? Did I finish that report for the meeting on Wednesday? I have to write my blog!
I felt the “happiness” slipping away as I welcomed in worry, doubt and nervousness. Quickly I watched all sense of contentment fly out the kitchen window!
I had planned to write about happiness today and I was grateful the feeling was present this morning when I woke up. So as I felt it slipping away, I quickly tried to grab some sense of pleasure and hold onto it. I could feel remnants of the pleasantness still lingering, but the full effect was just out of reach now and rapidly sliding away.
Many of us have read too many articles about happiness. We wonder if we should be striving for happiness. Or is it a fulfilled life we are looking for? Additionally, we are told we must find meaning so that our happy and fulfilled life will have purpose. I don’t disagree with any of this but it does bring up one question.
How do I live a happy, fulfilled and meaningful life?
Why am I not happy at times when it appears everyone else is?
Especially when the feelings of happiness seemed so elusive and slippery, proving difficult to lock down in any consistent way, we may wonder if any of this is possible. If you are like me, you run through several emotions even before you get out of bed! Emotions can roll through me like a spring storm with moments of sun, rain, thunder and lightning all while I’m brushing my teeth!
I do know how to settle my mind.
We all know what works for us right? Whether we meditate or listen to music, maybe exercise or talk with a friend to help us examine what we are thinking and feeling, we know what helps us calm the rapid fire of thoughts and emotions. At times we may seek help from a therapist or a coach (you know I had to get that in right?), as we become aware of destructive and unhelpful self talk and actively work to change the patterned and habitual chatter.
But we don’t always choose to do the things that help us.
Sometimes we voluntarily march into “worry land” in our minds, leaving all sense of joy behind. We race through our thoughts and grab onto the most unpleasant and anxiety provoking ones to gather up and provide the first row in the theatre of our mind. Shame, regret, fear and anger are given the red carpet treatment as they take their seats front and center in the story of our lives.
Funny how unhappiness, anxiety, depression and worry can build a campsite firmly in our minds, driving a stake deep in our thoughts with an air of authority. Why are some emotions so fleeting while others feel impossible to ignore? Is it possible we are choosing to hold onto the unpleasant emotions and thoughts?
Why would we choose unhappiness?
The simple truth is we are wired that way. We are pre-programed to look out for predators and enemies so that we stay alive and safe. The problem we all have now is that for most of us there aren’t saber-toothed tigers at our door any longer! So our minds look for something else to worry about, conjuring up fear and anxiety to keep us alert. Without being aware of our free flowing thoughts, we allow ourselves to latch onto whatever feels most worrisome with a touch of familiarity. If those familiar thoughts link back to any unhappy moments in our life story, bingo, we wrap them up in a big hug of belief and etch them in the stone of truth that we call our life story. I recognize this feeling so it must be true!
But what if we latched onto a contented thought?
Maybe happiness is just that. Maybe it’s not a destination so much as a process (yes I said that dreaded therapy word)! Can it be that those sometimes fleeting and other times more sustainable moments of joy and happiness are the real goal? Maybe it’s not meant to be a permanent state of mind but rather a minute by minute opportunity of becoming aware of our thoughts and emotions. In the space between thoughts and feelings, maybe occasionally we can stop and choose joy. Maybe our story we tell ourselves can be sprinkled with these moments, allowing for a subtle shift away from fear or sadness?
Can you find a moment, just a moment today, to choose happiness?
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P.S. Reaching out for help can be a first step in this process, so as always please get in touch for a free 30 minute consultation so we can get you on the path of finding your moments of happiness. https://www.bonniewims.com/contact/