Feeling good isn’t in style but that doesn’t mean you have to follow the crowd.

peaceI am a big lover of reading blogs on personal development. Or I used to be. I keep finding my great mood being deflated after reading articles on how to embrace my pain. Maybe it resonates with people going through tough times.

I know all about tough times. I went through a divorce, experienced downsizing twice, moved from a home I loved to a tiny apartment. For a few years I chewed on my angst. I would go on and on about how the past few years of my life have been so hard.  I consoled myself with food and the occasional bottle of wine. I stopped taking care of myself and stopped exercising. In those days, surrounding myself with like-minded people also suffering, either in person or through the media I consumed helped nurture my pain. 

It didn’t go away. It became part of my identity. I talked at length about how my divorce brought me to my knees. I allowed unhappiness to colour my days in subtle ways. Expecting the worst, kindling a low-grade fire of irritation and pessimism.

I realized yesterday, that happiness is a choice. The past seven years haven’t really been that bad. I met and married a wonderful man, I found a great career that I love.  I have made some amazing friends. I was choosing to relate to the painful stories filling my inbox.

Life isn’t always going to be perfect. Last week I walked five miles to work when the subway was down. Ideally, getting to work quickly would have been better, but I made the best of the situation and took the time to enjoy the extra movement, the fresh air and let go of my expectations. I chose to be happy that morning.

It’s very attractive these days to be authentic. And to some, that means poking at our painful spots. In my experience, that doesn’t work so great. All it does is keep those painful spots from healing. It’s like a physical wound – if you keep ripping the scab off, the wound will never heal.

If an area of your  past is fraught with pain, let it be. Stop repeating your painful story to others. Stop fixating on it. Look for some of the positives that came out of the situation and what you can leverage for the present and the future. Let it all go.

You can be happy in a tough situation or you can be miserable. It’s your choice. If you have made the choice to be happier, check out some of these resources:

Meditation is a really good method of bringing the happy back. Getting in touch with your deep, inner wisdom is the most direct route to experiencing peace. You can check out a great intro video here.

Having a purpose is another way to maintain your upbeat mood. It’s a lot easier to be optimistic when you have a vision for the future. That crummy job is more bearable when you see it as a stepping stone to your dreams. Think about what direction you want to take your life. You can create a vision board on Pintrest or by pasting pictures on a large posterboard. You can also journal your plans for the future.

Develop a self-care routine. It’s easy to feel crummy when your shoulders are tight, you haven’t had any “me” time and you are in desperate need of a pedi. I feel like a million bucks I have a fresh flower on my desk and painted toe-nails. Start giving yourself permission to enjoy a little luxury.

Eat well, sleep deeply and move often. Your mental state is going to be influenced by how you feel physically. When life gets hard or you are living in your unhappy past, it’s tempting to stop exercising and to start eating food that doesn’t make you feel vibrant. That only makes things worse. It’s really hard to pull yourself out of a funk when your body isn’t healthy and working at optimum levels.

Be grateful. Many self-help gurus recommend writing pages of things you are grateful for.  My suggestion is to simplify it by just making little acknowledgements about things that are nice in your life. I will recognize how good it feels to have my cat purring beside me and the peaceful feeling as I drift off to sleep. Or that first roasty sip of coffee. Enjoy the simple things. The little luxuries that come your way every day.

As many a mother have said, if everyone else is going to jump off a bridge, would you? So why are you following in the footsteps of unhappy people?

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