I feel very happy today.
I’m not sure why, though. Chaos swirls around me like the tornado that took Dorothy’s house in The Wizard of Oz. Yes, that’s how I feel. Like Dorothy. Sitting on my bed watching all this craziness spin around me, slightly out of reach but still there. There’s family drama, which we all know and love. Then there’s all the outside stimuli that may not be directly affecting us, but touches us as a collective human unit – poverty, racism, hate speech, political unrest. And, then, there’s the darn squash bugs that keep killing my zucchini. I admit squash bugs aren’t the best example of chaos, but chaos is subjective.
Yet, I feel very happy today. Why?
Happiness is a feeling that comes naturally to some people. I know a few of these lovely, gentle souls who radiate sheer joy no matter what is happening around them. They truly are rainbows in the darkness. Then, there are people like me.
I’m the person who fights hard to find joy because I wasn’t raised to see the glass half empty. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not blaming Mom and Dad. Raising someone to see the world through pessimistic, suspicious eyes is not a trait that solely belongs to them. I believe it belongs to many of us. It’s easy to lie in a bed of negativity and wrap yourself up in a blanket of distrust and pain, except for those lovely, gentle souls I mentioned earlier. It’s easier to stay in the darkness than to work to move toward light.
Still I feel very happy today. Why?
Because I’ve chosen to do so. It’s as simple as that. Every day I make a conscious decision to find happiness. Some days are better than others because I’m not that naturally happy person. I mindfully choose to untangle myself from family drama, to remind myself that bad things happen in the world, but good things happen equally, if not more. I tell myself to stop wasting energy on those squash bugs because it’s just a plant, after all, and I can go to the grocery store if I really want zucchini.
Are you struggling with finding joy in a world of uncertainty and constant turmoil? If so, here are some changes I made to my routine and mindset that have helped me. Maybe they will help you.
Connect with Nature
It’s funny that walking in the woods alone is something that is therapeutic for me. Like happiness, nature is something I used to avoid. Nature was too hot, too bug-filled, and too quiet. Two years ago, though, I took a 4,000-mile road trip with my husband and daughters from St. Louis to Los Angeles and back. During that trip, we crossed great expanses of terrain where there was nothing in sight. I’ll never forget the drive from Green River, Utah to Salina, Utah. There was nothing. Absolute open road for 110 miles with no services, just breathtaking scenery. There was also nothing to distract us from our thoughts. Instead of feeling unnerved at the quietness, my soul broke open and nature and I have a much different relationship now.
Recently, The University of Derby and The Wildlife Trusts in the UK conducted a 30 Days Wild campaign. The researchers measured how doing something “wild” every day for 30 days would affect a person’s mood. The results were impressive. Doing something as simple as picking flowers, feeding birds, or just walking in the forest, boosted happiness, self-esteem, and improved creativity.
A lot of times, we confuse mindfulness with constant thought. Yet, for me, it’s quite the opposite. I can amble through the forest or on a mountain trail without a concrete thought in my head. What’s mindful about these nature moments is that I’m present and aware of the beauty that surrounds. I disconnect and leave the chaos behind. It will still be there when I get back, but I’ve seen the other side and it looks good. I’ve had a chance to catch my breath.
Living with Gratitude
I am not wealthy. I’m not exactly where I want to be in my career right now. I am dealing with painful situations that I’m not confident will turn out well. Yet, expressing gratitude each day for what I do have keeps me present. It requires me to take a moment and tally up all that I have that others may not.
Gratitude keeps me present because happiness lives in the present, not the past or the future.
When I combine nature walks with mindful meditation, it’s simply the most blissful experience. Have you tried it?
Sometimes Mindfulness Isn’t Enough
Before I close, I feel I should say that sometimes we’re not happy for reasons that we can’t control or explain. Connecting with nature and expressing gratitude are great tools to have in our mindful toolboxes, but sometimes we need more. If you feel unhappy all the time or think you may be experiencing symptoms of depression, please speak with a licensed mental health professional who can help you work through your feelings.
That’s all for now my lovely thought warriors. Once again, thank you for letting me be a part of your day.
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