Happiness is a feeling, right? That’s partially correct. Happiness is more of a choice. Unfortunately, we are very often not in control of our circumstances, be we are very much in control of the choices we make around our circumstances.
“I Want A Divorce”
I will never forget the “aha” moment I had in my journey, which was literally a pivotal moment. I was 30 years old. I was a mother of three children, aged 3 years, 22 months, and 8 months old at the time. My husband had arrived home from an overseas trip, and, with no preceding fight or argument, he announced to me that he unilaterally wanted a divorce and that this was non-negotiable.
I fell to pieces. It felt as if a rug was being swept from under my feet. My world (as I knew it), was falling to pieces. I felt winded, I felt devastated, I felt hopeless and helpless. I found myself unable to eat and I fell into a deep depression. My weight swiftly dropped to a dangerous 38 kilograms and I spent most of my days crying and in bed.
A very good friend of mine arrived at my house one day and decided to give me “the talk.” She told me that if I did not make a conscious choice to choose happiness, that there was a very good chance that, in a few months, I would find myself in the same position.
Initially, I felt quite angry at her recommendation, as I felt she could not understand how dire my circumstances were. That night, I gave some serious thought to her “lecture” and I decided that I would, at the very least, humour her and try to decide to be happy.
So, did I wake up the next morning with a smile on my face? No. Did I instantly change my circumstances and become a happy human being? Certainly not right away. But, did I take her advice and take small, conscious steps towards creating a happy life? Absolutely! How did I do it? There were many small changes I made that had a lasting impact on my life. Here are my top six:
- How we start our day sets the tone for happiness
I compiled a list of songs that made me feel happy. Tony Robbins (inspirational speaker and coach) refers to this as “anchoring”. As I woke up, I would start my day with music that inspired me. I would also reward myself with something that I knew would uplift me: a delicious cup of coffee, a fresh fruit salad, or whatever I decided would work for me
2. Gratitude shifts the attitude
Each evening, I would force myself (yes, this was something I had to force at the beginning of my journey) to write a list of ten things that I was grateful for. In the darkest hours, sometimes “the air that I breathe” and “having a roof over my head” were things I was grateful for. Even though it was initially a forced habit, when I focused on the abundance of blessings in my life, suddenly I became receptive to and noticed even more blessings.
3. Schedule in time for happiness
Before I was even able to do this, I had to think about what actually made me happy. I had spent so many years living solely in the “roles” I found myself in at the time. I was Stacey the wife, Stacey the mother, Stacey the physiotherapist. For the first time, I had to consider, what about Stacey herself. What is interesting is that when I would be awake at 2 am with a crying baby, I would find myself fantasising about what I would do “one day” when my children left home, what I would do “one day” when I had the time. That led me to explore what made me happy.
Once I had identified what exactly it is that brings me joy and makes my heart sing, I scheduled in time to do those happiness-inducing activities every day. My list included: dancing, listening to uplifting music, playing with my dogs, and watching a mindless comedy show. At the beginning of this process, my happy moments were like little islands of relief. But these fleeting, scheduled moments soon flowed over into the rest of my day.
4. Manufacture happiness chemicals
Endorphins are naturally occurring hormones that cause us to feel happy. There are many ways that we can encourage our bodies to release endorphins. The simplest way is by doing thirty minutes of vigorous exercise. For those of you that are not exercise-inclined, the following may appeal to you:
Eat dark chocolate
5. Fake it till you make it
There have been numerous studies done on posture and mood. It is well documented that certain postures- referred to as “power poses”- can induce a happy or powerful space. Simply changing your posture can lift your mood. Try it for yourself. Notice your emotions when you are sitting in a slouched, crumpled position. Then, change your posture: stand up tall, open your chest, and put your hands on your hips. Allow yourself to notice the changes in your body and emotions by spending at least five minutes in a power pose.
6. Laughter is medicine
As mentioned, laughter produces endorphins too. The interesting thing is that even “fake” laughter produces endorphins. It is so interesting how the body will still produce endorphins in response to a laugh that is not heartfelt or genuine. If you don’t believe me, Google Laughter Yoga, and try it for yourself. Or, find yourself a great comedy show and “force” yourself to watch it. I could think of more difficult things to do.
Although we would like to believe that happiness just happens, this is not always the case. Happiness is a conscious choice. Happiness is a habit. And there is no better time than today to adopt small habits that will ensure that more of your day is spent in a happy state.