Thursday, April 11, 2013

Choosing Happiness

Have you ever caught yourself thinking, "if only [fill in the blank] would happen, then I would be completely happy?"  

Our family faces some unique challenges.  Mr. F. has a number of health issues (allergies, multiple chemical sensitivities, etc), our children need a whole lot of love and attention, even at night, both Mr. F. and I have food intolerances which neccessitate making everything under the sun from scratch, etc.  It is so easy for Mr. F. and I to feel a bit worn down and discouraged and yes, even perhaps a bit bitter.  I have found myself thinking on a number of occasions, "why is life so hard?  It would be so much easier if we could just grab a bite to eat at a place other besides our house.  Or go to church without suffering for it the rest of the day.  Or if our children would sleep by themselves."  I get caught in this "woe is me" mentality that just sprials down into dark and dreariness.  

And then one day, just out of the blue, I thought, "your situation  isn't going to improve any time soon, so you need to find happiness now."  I had this image in my mind of our cute little family: our sweet and loveable boy and our brand-new baby daughter.  I decided that I didn't want to spend this time, when our kids are young, sweet, and cute, being all bitter about how hard life is, especially as I don't percieve our circumstances changing anytime in the near future.

"Choosing happiness" is a phrase that is often thrown about.  It is a great sentiment, "choosing to be happy," but what does that really mean?  What is the practical application?  I honestly don't know.  And this is a bit of a sticking point, because how chan you change when you don't know what steps you need to take to change?  Sometimes just reminding myself that I am happy can be enough to change my current perception of a situation.  Also, making sure that I get enough sleep and some exercise is helpful in having an optomistic outlook and improved attitude.  But, I still struggle.  

How about you?  How have you found happiness in difficult circumstances?  What specific actions have you taken to "be happy?"

6 comments:

Melanie said...

This is a topic that I can definitely identify with. I was really struck by a talk that Elder Eyring gave a year or two ago. The take away message of the talk (at least for me) was that when circumstances aren't what I would choose, I can ask God what I need to do in order to be happy.

Writing that out makes it sound so simple, but it's made such a huge difference in my life. Instead of saying prayer after prayer pleading for what I think will make me happy, I ask Heavenly Father to help me identify how to spend my time, who to befriend, where to put my energy so that I can be happy in my current circumstances.

I hope that doesn't sound preachy; it's just that that one idea has made a huge difference in my life.

PS: I loved the photos of Finn's birthday and your Easter celebration. He's such a cute little boy!

yola said...

I struggled with depression when we graduated in a major major way. I hated not having my close friends near me anymore, I hated living with my parents again after being independent for several years and I felt like I was stuck in a holding pattern rather than starting my life. I felt incredibly alone and I was a total crab. I hated myself. And I would ask myself over and over, why didn't anyone like me? Then I had this sort of revelation that helped me out of that hole: no one would like me until I started to like myself. If I could find the things about myself that I liked, then surely others would too. And that simple change in my perspective on life has changed everything. My resolve to always see the positive in everyone and everything has changed my approach to my entire life. It helped me be unafraid to travel on my own and instead be excited about all the things I am capable of seeing and experiencing. It helped me make choices about my career and what I want out of it. It has made me seek things out rather than waiting for things to just change magically on their own. And I seek out those things that make life great and feel grateful for all the things I do have, I focus on those things when work is stressful, when I feel lost or lonely. Shifting that perspective is hard, and I can't even begin to imagine how hard it is for you. But if you do focus on what an incredible thing it is that you and Mr. F have, and what lovely lovely children you have, and what great people you are related to and are friends with--those things can carry you through, if you let them. Lean in when you need to, make it a regular practice at the beginning and end of the day to be grateful, and whenever you can, in the moment, realize how precious that moment is. Hang in there my friend--we are here for you!

MBC said...

I think this probably sounds bad, but I find that my key to being happy with a child is to lower my expectations right down. When I'm not too worried about accomplishing a lot and I can let go of my great desire to have a clean house again, I really enjoy spending time with my child and don't resent his slower pace or incredible mess-making ability. Also, and I'm not as good at this one, I am much happier when I have some time to myself or at least some time with just my husband. Steve took The Bairn to run errands one day this week, which gave me almost 3 hours at home to just lie in bed with my cold and read. I felt so kind and generous when they got back, mostly because I had some time not spent parenting, but also because I didn't try to get anything done while they were gone. Low expectations of myself.

Janssen said...

This is so hard to do, sometimes, isn't it? This post has really been on my mind all weekend - thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Grace said...

Have you heard of Martin Seligman? He does research on optimism and psychological resilience. His argument is that happiness has to with a certain mental outlook and thought patterns, rather than any objective circumstances.

He has a very interesting and useful book which will train you in how to "choose happiness": in other words, how to have an optimistic and positive outlook. I recently finished reading it and have been following recommendations, and have found it extremely helpful.(It's been repeatedly proved to be effective in studies if that sort of thing matters to you.)

The book is Learned Optimism.

Kari said...

Great post. You've really made me think! I agree that sometimes you just have to choose to be happy, despite not exactly ideal circumstances. I try to remember that when it's been raining for three weeks straight (even for a rain-lover like me that gets rough). I LOVE where I am in life, though sometimes I forget that and need a reminder like your post!

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