Thursday, June 21, 2012
Happiness: A Follow-Up to Last Night's Post
One of my favorite blogger friends brought up a valid point on last night's post, so I wanted to go back and expand a bit more on the thinking here.
Writing in a gratitude journal won't magically erase big unhappiness. It won't reform a cheating husband, repair childhood trauma, bring back a lost loved one, or make a terrible boss suddenly supportive and fun to be around. It's true that some spouts of unhappiness will keep gushing full force until time heals them, or you make a big change to your situation—or yourself.
But I truly believe that when we're awash in those larger points of unhappiness, it becomes even more important to focus on little joys. Otherwise, we are all misery all the time. And that is no way to live.
A gratitude journal can help you identify the little joys—and taking those one step further can help you cultivate bright spots of happiness in your life.
For example, I love and am eternally grateful for cheese. Knowing this, I also know that if I eat cheese (and bruschetta) for dinner on nights I'm feeling low, it usually helps me perk up—even if just for an hour or so. Maybe you love your dog, so dedicating twenty minutes a day to playing ball with her could help you elevate your mood. Or maybe you feel grateful for your health, so taking a hike once a week would help you feel happy and fortunate. Or maybe giving a manicure to those fingers that work themselves to the bone will give you a little boost.
Whatever your mini joys are, identifying and acting on them is a gift you can give yourself whenever you need it most.
[CAVEAT: As with most things, there's a line that should be observed when indulging in joy. I love wine and chocolate—they both bring me joy—but if I were to consume massive amounts of them daily, I could quickly fall over the edge of happiness into an overeating or binge drinking situation. Everything in moderation, right?]
I think the other thing about cultivating happy moments each day is that sometimes in those moments, you can have big breakthroughs that will influence the things making you unhappy.
When I was in my twenties and in a challenging, slowly souring relationship, I spent one day at the beach with friends before a U2 concert and had the time of my life. At the end of the evening, I found myself thinking, "I want to feel like THIS every day!"
It was the push I needed to end my unhappy love affair.
While I wholly understand that we all go through periods where it's hard to see any shred of happiness in our lives, I think those are the times when it's most important to hunker down and look for them.
Like I said in last night's post, every day counts.