Written By:Campbell Manning,LPC
My good friend, Cole, wrote about happiness last week, as a concept and with respect to how important it is in general. So, I thought I would feed on this – writing about how to be happy and how to intentionally become happier.
My son is getting married next weekend and I have a chalkboard in my kitchen where I write the number of days until the wedding. This morning I erased “10” and replaced it with “9”. We are down to single digits and the excitement level is mounting like crazy at our house!
Last night I was thinking about it all – for those of you who know me, you know I am crafting up a storm to create special, personal touches for the Rehearsal Dinner – and became a little overwhelmed by my own sense of happiness. I started to think about why I am so happy about this wedding and the very full weekend of spending time with our families and dearest friends. I am overjoyed because of the obvious, but more than other people might be. Because of the changes that have occurred within me, since coming through my sons’ addictions, which is why I am writing this particular blog.
Because of addiction, I get the gift of being very mindful that life is short and very unpredictable. I believe we need to note anything joyful we can, and that if we take time to make things better, life overall becomes more wonderful. The beauty of life is in the details. The food we eat, the homes we live in, the clothes we wear, time we spend with our loved ones, and how we choose to live our lives overall. In order to truly focus on life, to cherish each day, it’s vital to appreciate the tiny things we have by making them less small and mundane. Here are nine ways to do this:
Really notice what you are doing. Don’t just go through the motions of doing things. Stop and think about what’s going on – and make it count! Last weekend my niece dropped her daughter off for a little bit so she could go to an appointment. I could
have plugged her into a movie and gone about my busy schedule. But I decided to stop what I was doing, focus on my great-niece and make it special. She and I made peppermint milkshakes, poured them into special bunny glasses, and sat at the dining room table together. She wanted to light the candles (in the middle of the afternoon) – so I did! It made my day, and hers, a lot more joyful!
2. Go the extra mile. Sure, it might take time or cost a little more, but it separates the fabulous from the banal. Order dessert at the restaurant, put a surprise chocolate bar on your husband’s pillow, decorate more for the holidays, send a fun Bitmoji to your children, call a friend just to say you are thinking of them, or splurge on that marvelous dress for your son’s wedding!
3. Feed your happiness. Our dearest Basset Hound, Frances, had to be put to sleep two weeks ago and I have been sad. Very sad. But I have also made a few things by which to remember her and have them in the kitchen (her favorite room!) and in our room. I deliberately chose to add these things to my wedding crafting list and they not only helped soften the blow of her death, but also helped me start to shift into smiling when I see these tiny touches in her memory, and not being so heartbroken.
4. Make the time to celebrate the small things in your life. All of us have things going on that stink, that we wish weren’t happening, and that bring us down. If we intentionally nurture the small things that can bring us a bit of happiness our happiness is magnified. Pour your tea in a special mug, eat off a favorite plate, put some fresh flowers on your bedside table. Or just take a minute to remember how much you love the shoes you are wearing! Most of the things with which we surround ourselves we picked out and wanted at some point – if you remember to focus on them periodically and note how much you really do like or love them, they will bring ongoing additional joy.
5. Pick what you can control and control that. Research shows us that what we worry about today will not matter in three days. If you chip away at what you can actually do about things, they either go away because we’ve taken care of them, they get smaller (and more manageable), or they no longer matter. If you could see the chaos in many of the rooms in my house right now you would cringe. There are Mod Podged coasters drying on the floor in my daughter’s room, there are boxes of ribbon and items to decorate the Rehearsal Dinner in a guest room, there are small wood hearts to be sanded in the kitchen, and there are clothes to be ironed or organized in another. My husband hates disorder and it really messes with my visual OCD but instead of allowing it to bother and control me, I am acknowledging it is there, there is nothing I can do about it today, and that slowly it’s all being packed, organized, and finished. I sanded ten hearts while waiting for the tea water to boil and that’s ten more hearts off the pile in the kitchen!
6. Manage your expectations by redirecting them. Realize what can be done and make that not only enough, but great! I don’t have time to go to the Y this morning (there are wedding signs to pick up at the printer and an altered dress to retrieve!!). Instead of being frustrated by this and making myself feel like I should have gotten up earlier, I spent five short minutes doing some ballet moves and felt proud of myself for doing that, while mentally focusing on how what I choseto do helped me reach my larger more ultimate goal of getting it all done for the wedding in the nine days I have left.
7. Bring on the music! To help take the sting out of driving to work in the rain, having to clean the bathrooms, or dust, I have playlists I have built to help “put a spoonful of sugar in the medicine” (thank you, Mary Poppins!). I actually look forward to doing some of these things because I only listen to these playlists when performing the above tasks. Think about it – music has tremendous power over us and can really redirect your mood.
8. Make sure you celebrate you! Take the time to remember what you like and then purposefully have those things in your life. I love lemon drops, peppermint ice cream, root beer barrels, plants, rabbits, hearts, and tulips. My office and home are filled with the latter four and I deliberately make sure I have one or more of the first three available at all times. It takes a little effort to surround ourselves with things we like, but it makes a huge difference in our happiness factor.
9. Be mindful. This word currently seems somewhat overused, but it’s a great way to be. Just taking a moment to notice the weight of the comforter on your legs, the pictures on your walls, the geraniums in pots on the windowsill, the way your tea tastes -really anything. Being in the moment, and noting it, can shift your mood quickly with little effort.
It’s easy to get sucked up in our day to day lives and forget to take time to make ourselves happy. People who make the time to do it for themselves are rewarded exponentially. Happiness – like gratitude, forgiveness, and relationships – must be fed in order to be maintained or grow. I hope these nine ideas provide a springboard for ways for you to intentionally bring more joy into your life. It shouldn’t take to too long for you to shift into naturally doing some of these things more often and really make a difference in the quality of your ordinary life – helping it become moreExtraordinary!