“Happiness is not ready made. It comes from your own actions.” – Dalai Lama
There is truth in the cliché “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. Finding joy in the every day has been a mantra of mine for some time now. Over the past several decades I have experienced a number of challenges and loss – divorce, single parenthood, tragic deaths to loved ones and my incredibly brave husband’s fight with cancer. It has become a running joke with my friends that they will rejoice when I call them and tell them that I have a hangnail. Yet through it all, I have been able to move forward with this wonderful life of mine by pivoting to the positive. Don’t get me wrong, in no way do I advocate sweeping your feelings under a rug or delaying the grieving of a loss–and I certainly have my own down days–but my ultimate survival through each situation seems to start with finding one bit of joy.
It occurred to me after a recent event that some of you might be going through some difficult times or just need to be lifted up from life’s daily challenges. I have put together a list of the tips that me keep me positive and forward focused. I’d love to hear your’s as well.
Recognize that there are beginnings and endings to everything.
When you become acutely aware that we never really know when our time might be up, you can make a pledge to let joy in your life. Facing our own and others’ mortality is never easy, but I am convinced there is a positive to every negative. Once we recognize this, we find ourselves reaching out and noticing the simple pleasures in life. There is a saying that pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. Others have heard me say multiple times, “Look for the light”. It is there if you will let it in.
There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. – Leonard Cohen
Be in touch with what takes you to your happy place.
I have never met a flower I did not like. When I am feeling down, all I have to do is walk into a garden or nursery and my mood immediately changes. Recently, I was visiting the Los Angeles Botanical Gardens; (I highly recommend it by the way). As I was walking along a path, the most glorious aroma hit me. The aroma immediately transported me to happy thoughts of playing in the woods as a child. It was honeysuckle. Right then, I made a note to find a candle with that same smell and keep it around. Let go of your negative thoughts and think of, or do something that makes you feel good.
Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. – John Muir
Every day, take a few moments to really savor what makes you happy and give thanks. There is always someone whose life’s circumstances are worse than yours. Do you have food on your table, a warm bed, your health, great friends and family who love you? When you create feelings of gratitude, you change the feeling in your heart and therefore can change your mind and body. Starting a daily journal, like the “The Five-Minute Journal”, is always helpful in chronicling what you are grateful for and why it brings you joy. There are even apps for your phone to make it more convenient.
Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. – Melody Beattie
Create a bliss board.
Visual reminders of how fortunate we are and what makes us happy can do wonders in helping us find that joy in each day. Take a large sheet of cardboard and fill it with pictures, captions and colors that reflect your life. Even if you have lost someone dear to you, this board can reflect the happy times. It can be a catalyst to moving your mind in a positive direction.
Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are. – Marianne Williamson
Reaching out to others in need.
My father was an incredible man. I believe I got my positive outlook on life from him. One thing he left me with was the notion of the power of a smile; “You never know how you can change someone’s day by sharing a smile with them,” he would say. I have put this into practice many a time and it works. When you are feeling down and out, put effort into helping others, and your situation doesn’t seem so bad. Try it with the cashier when others are giving her a hard time, help an elderly person with their groceries, go work at a food shelter. Focusing on others releases us from self-pity.
Change the changeable, accept the unchangeable, and remove yourself from the unacceptable. – Denis Waitley
Life is a wonderfully rich tapestry of experiences. These experiences, good and bad, make up who we are but the negatives ones do not have to define us. Shine a light on your daily joys. If you practice this every day, it will become second nature and your joy will become contagious to others.