We are annually wished a Happy Birthday; in fact, I am having a birthday tomorrow. It won’t be as happy as usual thanks to the isolationism brought on by Covid 19. We will be expected to have a Happy New Year but apparently, we’re supposed to have a Merry Christmas. However, in England one is wished a Happy Christmas. We can be slap happy, trigger happy and “so happy for you.” I’m not certain who creates these labels but most of them have to be jolly, merry and bright.
I have often wondered how important it is to be happy. Do you think you can be happy if you live with chronic pain each day of your life? Should we strive for happiness? Does it matter? Is happiness important compared to being healthy?
So many questions come to mind when you open this jolly, sparkly box such as, can another person make you happy or do you have to do that all by yourself? Are we happier when we’re in love or when we’re fulfilled all on our own? Are we happiest when we’re children? Does that mean old folks aren’t happy? My husband is not one for sentimentality in what he says, such as one example when we first knew we were in love. One evening we were sitting on the couch and I said to him, the master of the understated, “Why don’t you say something soft, warm and mushy to me?”
He looked at me with a sly smile and said, long and slow, “Oh, Shiiit !”
I’ve known many individuals who never seem content, happy or fulfilled and I’m sure you have, too. Personally, I don’t think happiness is a gift we can receive from someone else. It’s a present we give ourselves. Perhaps, happiness is like our thoughts, our incentive and our creativity; it is born within and can only come from some place deeplyimbedded in each of us.
It’s only human to want to be happy. We can learn to cultivate happiness within and here are four of the most effective ways I have discovered to do that.
1. Accept unhappiness as a part of life; just don’t let it move in forever. Don’t expect to be happy everyday. I don’t think anyone can achieve that particular goal and if you do, you might be kidding yourself. We aren’t supposed to be happy during physical pain but we can have the strength of endurance and look forward to feeling better. We can make peace with our pain as we pursue answers. We can’t be happy when we are grieving for a lost loved one, beloved pet or the loss of a life achievement such as a business or home. Sometimes we have to grieve, cry and mourn before we can move on. Moving on can take time but it’s worth it to work through the mourning and loss to get to the other side of loss into the sunshine. Mourning shows respect, love and appreciation for what we’ve lost. Don’t let anyone else tell you to “perk up,” “get on with it,” or “cheer up.” You’ll do that when you’re ready to.
The loss of our health and the advent of chronic pain into our lives can make us very unhappy for a time because it is a loss of great magnitude. We’re ticked off because it isn’t part of the plan we had for our life. It hurts. We don’t like hurting and if we do, we should head for the nearest counselor. When unhappiness reaches into the dark parts of our lives and stays too long, then it is officially depression; that’s when we should ask for a reference to receive guidance from a professional.
2. Consider changing your definition of happiness. I think it means something different to each of us, don’t you? Our ideas of happiness come from many sources. Those sources are far too numerous to mention, but I’ll mention a few. You and I can achieve happiness from eating a strawberry ice cream cone on a hot day, receiving a dozen yellow roses or a hand-picked spring bouquet from a child or beloved spouse, or having a new child or grandchild enter our lives. We can be happy when our team or candidate wins, when we receive an unexpected windfall or when seeds we have planted pop through the ground and bloom into loveliness. Here in good old soggy Oregon, we sometimes have ferns pop up unexpectedly in the yard and that is like a gift from nature.
How do you gauge happiness? Simple or monumental is in the eye of the individual, as is humor, fear and anxiety. For instance, superficial love usually brings joy and happiness but it can become very dark and lose its luster. If that occurs, it no longer qualifies as love.
3. Spend some time looking inward. In spite of your illness and pain, there is something or many things that make you happy. Ask yourself what they are. They are usually tied to fulfillment, large or small. It may be something you’ve wanted to do for a long time; perhaps since you were a child. What would give you fulfillment and joy? As long as you’re visiting your childhood, try to remember what made you happy as a child. Was it astrawberry ice cream cone? Was it the comfort and security of being tucked in at night? What were your dreams? Have they come true for you? You might have to rearrange a few approaches but the chances are you still have the ability to achieve…whatever it is.There is fulfillment, achievement, joy and happiness waiting for you. You may not recognize it if you are in pain or crisis mode, as I seem to be in so often. Actually, I am in pain every day of my life and that takes a whole new mindset as to the definition of what constitutes happiness. I believe happiness changes to joy and peace of the heart and mind as we go through trials, illness and pain in this life. It becomes less giddy and more substantial. That gives the word happiness much more depth as we mature and yes, indeedy, you and I know we never stop maturing. We will either grow or deteriorate, spiritually, until our life is over. Life and its various meanings and interpretations are ever changing.
4. Once you find happiness, of any size, degree or dimension, give it away, share it. You can keep it as well as give it away. It’s kind of like breast milk in that regard. The more a baby suckles from the mother, the more milk is produced. Happiness is one of those emotions that will grow as it is shared. Strange as it seems, the more you give to others the better you will feel. Ask for that peace that passes all understanding from the source of peace as you remember, God is love and He indeed love and wants you to have that kind of peace. It is possible and sometimes I have to remind myself of that on a daily basis as I fight my own battle with chronic pain.