Cherish life. Nourish it.

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I Will Be Happy When __________. Signed, Goldilocks

Mature woman beach“I will be happy when…….?” I’m a perfect size 6? Get my degree? Get married? Buy that house? Take my dream vacation? Lose weight? Get a job? Retire? Get a new car?

How many times have we made similar statements? They’re powerful words, because they infer that happiness is an elusive state that depends on everything being “just right.” Remember Goldilocks? Goldie believed that happiness always depended on external circumstances. She saw no need to take personal responsibility for her own happiness, nor did she recognize the role of contentment and gratitude in her life.

Goldie had not developed the ability to be at ease with life’s highs and lows. Her comfort zone was incredibly narrow. Instead of embracing the whole spectrum of emotion, she wanted everything to be just so. Nothing imperfect or unexpected was tolerated.

Likewise, today many feel that happiness is the result of avoiding or getting rid of bad feelings. But rejecting our emotion only creates more bad feelings. Rejection of our own emotion is a rejection of self, contributing to feelings of brokenness or unworthiness. And if we believe we’re unworthy, we won’t believe we deserve to be happy!

If we feel blocked from happiness, one exercise is to look at what’s “in the way” as The Way. Think about it: how many times have we experienced stressful events, only to look back on them with gratitude for the lessons they taught us? Patience, endurance, clarity, flexibility, hope, and adaptability are all fruits of the tree called hardship.

Some may say that these are old fashioned values, but old gold is still gold, and emotional resilience is currency that we can invest every day.

Rather than depending on “just right” moods or circumstances, we can learn to allow happiness to become an overall state of being. The power of this approach is that it allows us to find the good in every situation.

Daily practice can include focusing on:

  • what we’re grateful for
  • areas of contentment
  • what’s working in life
  • drawing pleasure (aka nourishment) from our daily activities

Spending a few minutes each day quietly contemplating all our reasons to be grateful has proven to be an excellent technique to ground us in happiness as well as contributing to overall health. (see links below)

Instead of rejecting unpleasant emotions and feelings, we can learn to see all our experiences as just that-experiences. And experiences are the fabric of life. Rejecting so-called negative experience is a rejection of life.

We all experience discomfort. How we choose to respond to it determines our happiness set-point.

The human mind tends to get stuck in loops–repeating thoughts, beliefs, and interpretations that tell and re-tell the story of our lives. But we have a choice: we can consciously choose thoughts that will make space in our mind and heart for happiness. We can practice doing this again and again. Happiness can become a habit.

In addition, pleasure is all around us. Beauty in nature, the touch of a loved one, savory tastes and pleasant aromas, beautiful music, the feeling of oxygen coursing through our body. Once we accept what is and stop rejecting our reality, we create a still, quiet place for these pleasures to reside. We feel nourished physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We fully occupy the myriad small moments that are gifts of joy, gifts that nourish, experiences that contribute to true contentment.

And contentment? Contentment’s contribution says, “I have enough. I am enough. Life is good.”

The time that we spend postponing happiness, believing everything in life has to be just right before it can happen, is distracting us from the actual life that we have right now, in the present. And it’s only in the present that we can choose to experience the happiness, joy, and contentment that are right in front of us, waiting for our attention.

Links: “How to increase and sustain positive emotion: The effects of expressing gratitude and visualizing best possible selves” “Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life”