About ten years ago I was miserable. Well, let me rephrase that: I thought I was miserable. I was living in a city I didn’t like, my family was a thousand miles away and my career was at a standstill. I knew something had to change, but what I didn’t realize until much later, was that what had to change was me.
Between months of cognitive therapy and the voracious reading of self-help books (the most impactful being “What Happy People Know” by Dan Baker), I managed to completely change my life – by looking at it in a new way.
As a mom, you most likely don’t have the extra money or time to buy and read books let alone head to therapy regularly so I’m going to tell you what worked for me in the hopes that it may do the same for you.
Wait, isn’t this a fashion site?
My goal for this site from day one was to help moms feel better about themselves while they’re busy focusing on everyone but themselves. I thought I’d take a small sidestep from fashion this week, during the time of year when we reflect on our lives and make resolutions, to discuss something that can make a person look better on the outside than any outfit ever could, true happiness.
What is happiness?
First, let me define happiness as I see it, as it has happened to me. Happiness isn’t elation or excitement. It’s an inner peace, a calm that you know you can always get yourself back to no matter what your emotions are telling you. It’s a contentment with life, a knowledge that there’s more good than bad so even when the bad things are happening you can handle them knowing that good things still exist all around you. This doesn’t mean that you never feel negative emotions, or that you shouldn’t feel them. You should. At times they are an appropriate response to a situation. But being happy helps keep you from dwelling on them and letting them take over your life. It brings you back to a place of calm so that you can be better equipped to solve whatever problem it is that made you feel bad in the first place. (And by the way, don’t think I’m Miss Perfectly Happy Pretty Princess – this process is an on-going, lifelong workout. The exercise never ends but it does get much, much easier.)
The key to happiness
It’s simple: To be happy you must train yourself to look at what you DO have and not at what you don’t, the positive instead of the negative. That’s it. As humans, we seem to automatically focus on everything that’s wrong in our lives. We must re-train our mind to do the exact opposite. It really isn’t hard but it definitely takes dedication and consistency.
The steps to happiness
Step 1: Make a detailed list of what you’re thankful for and put a copy on the mirror where you get ready each day and another in your purse – perhaps on your smartphone. And by “detailed” I mean to include even the tiniest things, things you think might be silly. For example, instead of writing “health” start at the top of your head and write “that I have hair” (because you know if you didn’t you’d be miserable about it). Then, move lower to your skin and your brain, your eyebrows, your nose. And if there is something on your body you don’t like, just skip it. There’s no need to write it down. There will be enough positive points on your list to make you forget the negative.
We often think we only have a few good things in our life because we don’t pay attention to them in detail. Sure, you are grateful for your children but why? We mistakenly believe that life is about the big things but those only happen occasionally. What about the millions of little ones in between that really define our days? Those are what life is about.
Step 2: Find a way to ensure you’ll read the list every morning and additionally, at least once during the day. (Instead of looking at Facebook while waiting for the kids to get out of school, read your list.) The more you do it, the faster you’ll make positive thinking a habit. And that’s the goal – to have it eventually happen naturally. It happened for me when we were looking at buying a condo we really wanted that didn’t work out. Instead of crying/whining/complaining when I heard we didn’t get it, I automatically thought, “Oh well, I won’t have to go through the hassle of moving now,” and I got on with my day. I was really surprised at my positive attitude which consequently, kept me from having an unnecessary meltdown. (I now try to save those for the things in life that really warrant it, like illness and death.)
Are you ready for step 3? Too bad because there isn’t one. I told you it was simple.
No one can stop you from doing this. Your happiness is up to you.
Wishing you a wonderful holiday season and a new year that’s brighter than you ever imagined!