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Relearning Happiness

One of the things I’ve spent a lot of time pondering over the last few months is happiness, and how I acquired it and them seemed to lose it again. The summer of 2011 was one of the most joyful times of my life, and not because everything in my life was perfect or was working out the way I wanted it to. I’d learned how to be happy, and once that knowledge was securely in place, it was easy to maintain until some big changes knocked them loose again.

After that, I told myself I was happy. I’d learned how to be happy, hadn’t I? I only struggled with anxiety and gloominess again because it was winter, right? As soon as spring came, I’d feel that joy again. All I had to do was wait. It wasn’t my fault.

Spring came. Summer passed. I never really felt spring or summer though. I felt like it just got hot. That anxiety and gloomy mood stayed with me. As much as I lied to myself, I wasn’t happy. That joy from the previous summer didn’t return with the sun.

That’s part of the reason why I decided to put everything on hold for awhile so I could figure everything out.

After a particularly overwhelming week, I decided that I wouldn’t lie to myself anymore. I wasn’t happy, but I knew happiness was possible because I’d achieved it before. I knew it didn’t depend on what job I had, how much money we were making, or anything outside of myself because I’d been happy in far less “ideal” situations.

So how did I do it? I spend the day reading my journals from that time, rereading blog posts from the spring and summer of 2011, and reading the book that introduced me to the ideas that turned everything around. If I could learn happiness once, I could do it again.

I realized that I just had to relearn everything.

The ideas and practices that brought me happiness before, I’d taken them for granted. I thought I knew them all, so I stopped practicing what I knew. I just expected that mindset to maintain itself, and I unconsciously let it slip away.  I felt humbled, because I realized that no matter how much I think I know, I will always have to practice and relearn these things. Gratitude, positive thought patterns, trust, affirmations, love…those things are practices rather than a permanent mindset that never goes away once it’s in place.

So now I do the things I used to do. I write things I’m thankful for in my journal every single day. I use affirmations and mantras to maintain positive thought patterns. I make an effort to appreciate others. I make a conscious effort to trust that things will work themselves out instead of fear that they won’t. I feel like a beginner again, but I actually feel happy and peaceful now even though there’s a foot of snow on the ground and the sun goes down earlier every night. I have less energy for sure and I get a little gloomy in the evenings, but overall, I can honestly say that I’m happy right now.

If I’ve learned anything from this, it’s that happiness is both a choice and a practice, not a result of circumstances or luck. As humbling as that knowledge is, it’s comforting to know that I can always choose happiness.

I wish you all the joy and happiness you deserve. Have a wonderful Tuesday!

 

Noticing-The First Step to Change

 

Over this winter, I’ve fallen back into a bad habit that I’ve been trying to kick for years.

Stressing out over little things. Everything feels like an emergency to me.

Part of this may have to do with tired adrenals, which I suspect I’m experiencing, but I believe that 90% of our health starts in our minds.  If anything is wrong with my body right now, it started in my head.

I mentioned earlier this week that I’ve been holding a lot of tension in my shoulders, neck, and face lately. I’ve also noticed that I’ve been doing things like I’m in a race. You should see me wash dishes. I move quickly, my heart rate seems to be elevated more often than not, my thoughts fly around my head like a swarm of bees, and sometimes I feel powerless to stop it.

Then I remind myself that the first step to change is noticing.

I know plenty of people who run on full throttle all day long and never realize it. Sometimes I compare myself to them and feel bad because they seem so much stronger than me, but I’m glad that I can notice what is going on and why it doesn’t serve me. Stress wears me out. When I notice that feeling, I can go into it and find out why it’s there. I can ask myself why I feel that way. 9 times of out of 10, its’ something that really isn’t a big deal.

I don’t beat myself up for stressing over little things. Instead, I ask myself a few more questions. What’s the worst thing that could happen? Even if it did happen, it’s never the end of the world. Will this matter in a few years? Probably not. Am I thinking realistically, or am I letting my imagination run amok? (The downside to having an active imagination is that it can take any situation and run off in any direction without looking back)

I’m getting better at reining myself back in a few times a day. It takes practice, but it’s getting easier.

How do you handle stress? Do you stay calm or do you tend to be a stress case like me? Do you notice before it runs you into the ground?

The falacy of “I can’t”

Good morning! I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter. Mine was quite awesome and sugar-filled.

I had an epiphany the other day, during Zumba class no less. Nothing like joyful movement to get those juice flowing. Here goes:

I was not blessed with the gift of dance, or athleticism of any kind really. Most of my cousins are either dancers, gymnasts, play sports, and are generally quite talented in the realm of athletics. Not me. I’ve said more than once that I dance like a retarded gibbon and my nickname in grade school was slow-poke. I dreaded the Presidential Fitness test the school put us through every other year and PE class was horrible. I was the epitome of every gym class cliche; being picked last for everything, getting smacked in the head with volleyballs, slipping in the mud while running laps…I’ll spare you the rest. Though sports don’t really interest me, I’ve always wished in my heart that I could dance.

Anyway, my Mom’s been trying to get me to come to Zumba for months now, and I always wanted to but it never seemed to work out. Last Saturday, the stars finally aligned and I got to go. I promptly took my place in the back of the room so I wouldn’t injure anyone.

I knew I’d have a blast, even if my legs got all tangled up and if I couldn’t keep up. I watched myself in the mirror and I realized that while I may not be super coordinated and I don’t pick things up very quickly, what I did pick up looked really good. What  I didn’t get right away, I faked. It felt good. I looked really happy, with a bright smile and my skin glowed. We can debate whether Zumba actually counts as dance, but I was dancing! Don’t get me wrong, I took a couple dance classes in high school that weren’t totally disastrous (beats regular PE any day) and when I did theater I danced well enough to hold my own (after months of rehearsal).

Then I thought, maybe the only reason I think I can’t dance is…because I think I can’t! I’ve always labeled myself as a non-dancer, but I loved to watch dance because it moves me on a very deep level. When I listen to music, sometimes I choreograph in my head. Sometimes at home, I close all the blinds, put on some music and let loose, and it feels good. Coordination and quick learning may not be my strong points, but I understand rhythm. I can be graceful. Through years of yoga, I’ve learned to better control my body. I can learn, I just don’t pick it up as easily as my cousins do.

Maybe I can dance. 

By extension, maybe I can be athletic. Maybe I can run and play sports.

So now it’s your turn.

What are you holding yourself back from?

Maybe you tell yourself that you aren’t creative (Wrong: everyone is creative. It’s part of being human) Maybe you believe that you can never be assertive, or never dress a certain way or never start a business.

Why do we tell ourselves these things?

Either because of a bad experience in the past like the junior high PE class from Hell, or because we’re afraid of failure and rejection. My particular insecurity with dancing and athletics come from a lifetime of self-esteem issues which led to disconnection from my body, and comparing myself to others. I never thought of dancing on my own level, I only considered it something for “other people” who were naturally gifted.

So, I challenge you to take a risk and try something you thought you could never do, whether you’ve tried it before or not. Take that painting class, join that community basketball team, dye your hair blue, or sign up for a dance class. You know what? You might suck it up the first couple of times, but you might enjoy it too. If you enjoy it, pursue it and you will probably improve. I once had a teacher who told me “If you are drawn to something, if you admire it, that talent is buried in you somewhere.”

There’s a dancer inside me somewhere, and there’s a/n (fill in the blank) in you too. Find it, bring it out.

Have a great day!