In the wonderful (and sadly defunct) column Since You Asked by Cary Tennis, a reader asked how she could become happy again. She said she was sad and depressed, for a large number of small reasons. Cary answered that becoming happy was similar. We become happy for a large number of small reasons. The trick is to become aware of them.
It’s part of our nature to become acclimated to whatever our situation is. We learn to adjust. We adapt. And, we take things for granted. We “don’t know what we’ve got ’till it’s gone”. It’s who were are, but it doesn’t have to be.
There are so many little happy things in our lives. For me, right in this moment, there is my delicious flavored coffee, my happy rescue dogs sleeping by my ankles, knowing I’ll see my husband and daughter later today, a cool room on a hot day, but lovely sunny weather outside…and I can go on and on. The trick for all of us is to be mindful of these things.
There have been studies done on simple gratitude practice and its affect on depression. Simply writing down a few things we are grateful for each day will absolutely change our outlooks and mood.
I’ve found another exercise effective now and then. Try to imagine everything dear to you has been taken away. You lost your family. Your health is gone – truly gone. You are weak and tired and in pain and cannot walk or breathe easily. So are your friends. The gifts that make you unique are gone. Your spiritual connection seems to have vanished. (Note that some of this is true for some people – war refugees, or seniors in nursing homes). Try to imagine that as clearly as you can without sacrificing your emotional health over it. Now imagine that you could either have a million dollars, or you could have it all back. Feel that choice. Now feel how rich you feel to have all of these things “back”.
There are other exercises that help us become more aware of the small things – and the big things – that make us happy. What are you happy about?