Why Being Content Should Be Your First Focus

I’m all about being happy.  Because, well, it makes me feel good.  And I like to feel good.  That makes me smile.  And smiling makes me happy.  The cycle of the non-vicious kind!

Wooded bridge in the port between sunrise.

This isn’t unique to me 🙂  A lot of studies have proven that.  In 2012 researchers from Kansas State University showed that the act of smiling reduces stress.  Making you happier.  Isn’t that just cool beans.

And at the University of Cardiff in Wales, psychologists even found that those whose ability to frown is compromised by Botox injections were happier than people who frown!  Wow!

That’s just amazing.

On the other hand, though (isn’t there always another hand!), a study at the Michigan state University, led by Brent Scott, suggested that “fake” smiling on the job may actually worsen mood and affect productivity.

I always loved Deepak Chopra’s take on faking happiness as being “mood making.”  Yep.  It’s never good to lie, especially to yourself.  My dad, an esteemed psychiatrist, always used to say that the only person you really had to be honest with was yourself.  The converse leads to mental illness.

Life brings us lemons.  And not always the kind from which to make lemonade—at least at the time.  That comes later.

Mental health depends upon honestly dealing with events that happen, and the emotions that arise from those.  In writing fiction, we call that scene and sequel—after the action occurs, our characters deal with the outcome.  In order.  First comes thoughts about it, then feelings, then resolution, then action again.  And art does mimic life and vice versa 🙂

Being human is a difficult journey.  Not always of course, but at many points on the path.  At oftimes in our lives, the “dealing with that” means sadness.  Sometimes life has to be wept.  No one gets out of here unscathed.  Real life is simply fraught with passages that break the heart.

But by digging all that out, we come back to center.  That center provides the bridge over which we traverse to go from sad to happy, heartbreak to heaven.  If you jump smooth over it, you’ve just lied to yourself.

And sooner or later, you’re going to slide back down that slippery slope straight into the river of sorrows.

Unhealed hurts just do that to ya.  By definition.

A funny thing happens, however, when you spend the appropriate time on that bridge between the emotions.  Contentment comes.  That realization that yes, the terrible transpired.  And has to be felt, dug out to the core.  But the resolution arises that you are alive, and can live to fight another day.  No matter the horror that occurred.  And from it, you’ve learned something vital.

But you have to first stand on that bridge between the event and what comes next. It’s a tough place to stand, and we’d really rather go forward, back, jump over the railing, anything but stand there.

Whether the hurt was big or small, in the ultimate scheme of things, the heart begs for healing.

Last fall when Siren reabsorbed her litter, I was quite familiar with beating myself up with mistakes I might have made about it.  Or, planning what I would do in the future.  Or anything rather than face the fact that we’d just lost what would have surely been a beautiful bunch of babies.  Siren was grieving.  I was grieving.  But what saved us was standing together and knowing it.  Feeling it.  And finally just being happy in each other’s presence.

Because while on that bridge a peace begins.  An understanding of one’s place in the bigger scheme of things.

And one thing I know for true—given the choice between huge highs and lows, we’re all wired to seek peace.

Out of that peace a new course of action can be found.  A new way (or perhaps, a well-trodden one) of facing what’s ahead.  And a gratitude that you’re still on the playing field, still in the game.

Being content at that point makes me smile.  And with that smile, the cycle continues . . .

How do you find contentment in times of trial?




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