Man, have I ever excelled at this! I was once the World Champion. Not so much anymore, although I still have my moments.
Have you ever woken up one day and wondered, why am I sad? And not been able to put your finger exactly on the reason, the source of your unhappiness?
I’m not talking clinical depression. Nor the sorrow that comes from losing something or someone you love. But more those days when you just wake up with the Blues.
Life is a funny thing. It responds to the energy you put out, and indeed, that’s what comes back to you, and provides the ultimate meaning of “create your own reality.” The difference in how to be happy vs. how not to be, truly lies not in our stars.
Am I happy now? You bet’cha! But like a lot of folks, I once did my part to live in unhappiness.
And these are the ways:
This one will plunge you into shame, increase your levels of stress hormones (primarily cortisol), compromise your immune system, and even cause you to gain weight. Yikes!
Hamilton Beazley, Ph.D., author of No Regrets: A Ten-Step Program for Living in the Present and Leaving the past Behind, says, “When you repeatedly revisit a painful regret, you continue to experience and suffer the negative emotions generated by it.”
That pretty much says it. And while we can surely learn from past mistakes, to wallow in them will leave us in Hell.
Pretty much the converse to number 1.
Sadly, you can’t predict the future (unless your crystal ball is far less hazy than mine!). And you can’t even control it, despite your best efforts.
I have an image I always bring up whenever worry starts to creep into my mind. It’s of walking down a dirt road, and coming toward me are numerous images of bad things that can happen in whatever particular circumstances. And what I know for true is that if 3 of those are headed my way, at least two will fall into the ditch before they get to me, and the third will most likely disappear.
I see them do so.
As Corrie ten Boom said in Clippings from My Notebook, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”
But by far my favorite saying about future worry is from Charlotte Dunhill, retired minister and dear friend, who will say, “We don’t have nearly enough data to panic yet.”
And you know what? We never do.
Expectations are tricky demons. I mean, we expect the people in our lives to be decent human beings, no? Isn’t that part and parcel of what makes us human?
Yes. The however is that what we mean by that may be far different from someone else’s definition.
And often we have expectations that when truly dissected, cannot be met.
Life doesn’t owe you anything. Period. And while that sounds a bit harsh, it’s true. Life is exactly what you make of it.
Your mate or lover or friend may be perfect for you, but unable to meet the ideal you hold.
Living without expectations means you accept reality for what it actually is. You accept people for who they actually are. And then you don’t miss the quiet guidance that is always available.
How freeing. How much energy is released by not trying to force people into boxes, not constraining the life flow.
As the Dalai Lama said, “I am open to the guidance of synchronicity, and do not let expectations hinder my path.”
I know actually of no surer way to slaughter your happiness.
That soft still voice within is always there to whisper the truth into your ear, to say, go this way, not that.
And the thing is, although connected to the collective unconscious, the filter is always uniquely yours. I.e., what may be the exact right path for one person may be the wrong way for you. So you can’t just follow the dots that another person, religion, society says is “The Way.” If it doesn’t fit or work for you, then it didn’t come from that voice of intuition within.
As mythologist Joseph Campbell said, “If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s.”
We usually think of this in terms of physical health. And while yes, that’s where we start, it’s not all there is.
Mental, emotional, and spiritual health all play huge parts in how happy we are.
Have you ever began walking down a spiritual path, really bouncing down it, seeing all aspects of your life falling into place, and thinking, wow! This really works!
And like someone taking meds who starts to feel better and quits taking them, you slowly but surely quit your practice. And like that person stopping antibiotics too soon, you tank.
The more esoteric modes of health are every bit as important as that apple a day if you want to stay on track.
As Plato said, “The part can never be well unless the whole is well.”
So many studies have been done on the positive effects of gratitude in recent years. And we know that being positive, being grateful changes one’s life, and one’s world.
The converse is also true. By depreciating—being ungrateful—the negatives grow in our lives.
In his book, Thanks!: How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier , Dr. Robert A. Emmons describes research he carried out with three experimental groups over 10 weeks (Emmons & McCullough, 2003). Only one of the groups practiced gratitude.
People who were in the group that practiced gratitude were 25% happier. They were more optimistic about the future, they felt better about their lives and they did almost 1.5 hours more exercise a week than the others.
Gratitude is free. It’s right there, for your taking. All you need do is be aware of it. And give it daily practice.
As Maya Angelou once said, “This a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before.”
Live by someone else’s rules.
Live the life your parents/spouse/society directs you to live.
Forsake your dreams.
Now, that’s the best prescription I know to kill the song in your heart, the dance in your step.
Yep, forging your own path may be difficult indeed. Just ask any writer! LOL. There is no map. No 12-step group. No guide to help you connect the dots. Because they are strictly your dots to connect.
But that’s where the richness of life lies, the magic, the days filled with inspiration and soaring. Do tough times come? You bet’cha. But by taking your own journey, you live a life fulfilled.
“If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.” ― Joseph Campbell
Award-winning writer and editor Susan Mary Malone is the author of the novels, "I Just Came Here to Dance" and "By the Book," as well as four co-authored nonfiction books, including "What’s Wrong with My Family?" and many published short stories. Forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to traditional publishers.