We all experience the ups and downs of life. We all experience a season when it feels like the whole world is tumbling down on us. Our health seems to be going downhill. Work feels unfairly stressful. Social responsibilities seem unrelenting. Our marriage feels like it may break. When we are in the valley, it's easy to get discouraged. We fail to see a way out. And we look at our situation as if it were unique. We want everyone to empathize, to lend a hand, to offer support. We can even place our desire to be happy again in the hands of others, particularly those who are closest to us. They know us and our situation. They should understand us. They should feel our pain. And if we have helped them in the past, the pressure on them to help us back is even higher.
What we tend to forget is that we all have our own life challenges. We all carry our own burdens, our own cross, whether heavy or light. We tend to also overlook that happiness is a gift available to each of us who chooses to embrace it and own it. No one has full control over our attitude in the face of difficulties. We alone hold the key to our own happiness, sometimes in spite of the storm in our life. And it is accessible if we keep an open mind and seek to retrieve it. So where do I go to find my happiness?
I find it by engaging in activities that boost my sense of inner peace, joy and happiness. Getting my hands dirty in my garden brings me happiness. Cooking a flavorful and healthy meal that my family enjoys boosts my sense of satisfaction and happiness. Dancing to the music I enjoy makes me happy. Socializing with friends and neighbors make my days much more enjoyable as I look forward to sharing meals and conversations together, leaving me happy. Listening to inspirational speakers first thing in the morning and letting them give me a word to meditate on and live by throughout the day starts me out by counting my blessings. This too makes me happy. Admiring the beauty of nature on my daily walks brings me back home happy. Doing yoga, which allows me to see that even my midlife body can still stretch itself without breaking boosts my happiness as well.
None of these activities are dependent on others giving me permission to enjoy them. Yet, they are some of the outlets that enable me to experience happiness. These “small things” focus me on living my life to the fullest, allowing happiness to remain close to my heart even when I feel stranded in a valley. Happiness is indeed personal. It always is. It is up to us to find it, and keep it. And when we do, it rubs off of others who may need a dose of what we feel. Indeed, happiness is contagious. When we embrace it, we naturally pass it on!