During these stressful times, it is so easy to focus on what is wrong, what is not going well, and how expectations have changed. I challenge you to look at being happy with what you have. That is a powerful challenge to take on when you feel like all the forces of nature are in opposition. Being happy with what you have, forces you to look at your present situation from a different perspective. Finding joy, and appreciation in places, and situations you may have previously overlooked.
What is Happiness?
Eleanor Roosevelt shared that “Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product.” Happiness has also been characterized by feelings of contentment and joy. The topic of happiness has been gaining attention in recent month, propelled by individuals expressing frustration, lack of contentment, disappointment, and anxieties at their present situation. Despite challenges of caregiving, trying to carry on as usual, each of us has been impacted by COVID-19. The value of modifying expectations and changing our perspective has great positive mental and physical implications.
According to Dan Gilbert, a happiness expert shares that human beings have the ability to change their view of the world, so that they can feel better about the world in which they find themselves. What are you really paying attention to? Are you comparing yourself against your perceived happiness of others? This provides you with an unrealistic reference point, unduly impacting your happiness. Catch yourself when you are going down the negative “rabbit hole” of social comparisons. Acknowledge that you have the right to be happy; you do not need to be comparing yourself unfavorably to others. Give yourself a dose of self-compassion.
One never knows what is really going on behind the scenes in the lives of others. The version of others that we see may be very different from what is actually going on in their lives. Think how often you try to make your situation in life just a little “rosier” than what it is for the sake of others.
Take a Break
It is time to focus on you and your loved one. Stop the comparisons and savor! Draw out in your mind those happy and pleasurable experiences. Right now, they may seem to be few, and far between, relish them and think about them often. Reflect back on the nice things that others have done for you, and the acts of kindness that you are or have done for others. Be thankful and appreciative for what you do have even when it appears that the world’s forces may be in opposition. Also think back to those life experiences, life cycle events, trips, and other events and experiences that brought you happiness and joy.
“I am the happiest man alive, I have that in me that can convert poverty to riches, adversity to prosperity, and I am more invulnerable than Achilles; fortune hath not one place to hit me.” Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici (1642)
You have the freedom to choose to be happy; it is a matter of perspective and focus. Utilize this time to develop habits to support happiness. Be intentional, take action; focus on putting new habits in place, and changing those that are not supporting your happiness efforts. Be intentional in cultivating, and nurturing your positive emotional practices.
- Formally declare that you are going to change your perspective to focus your energies to acknowledge and recognize the positive and things you are grateful for
- Don’t set expectations on a timeline
- Journal – write and reflect on those things, people, experiences that have brought you happiness
- What are the items that bring a smile to your face, what gives meaning to your life? Think about happy memories each day – reflect back on those occasions that have brought your joy
- Stop comparing yourself to others – happiness is not a competition, and comparisons will thwart your personal efforts to increase your happiness.
- Do something for someone else – despite your caregiving tasks, do something for someone else. Making a phone call, sharing a meal, send a card, or simply smiling and acknowledging the presence of someone who may be more challenged than you
- Meditate or pray to refocus your perspective and gain spiritual energy
- Happiness apps – there are many apps available to help you focus on increasing your happiness, a quick search online will help you identify the one that is right for you