“I just want to be happy!” I hear these words constantly–in songs, in movies, from my friends/children/spouse’s mouths. Sometimes I even hear them come out of my own mouth or go rumbling around in my head. But what does it mean to “be happy”? And how does one get happy?
I chose the title of this blog (“My Happy Place”) very carefully. I want to share with my readers stories from “my happy place”, the farm, but I also want to communicate how I get–and stay–happy. A happy state of mind takes constant upkeep. What goes on in my head filters down to my emotions. If I think depressing, negative things, I will instantly start feeling sad and depressed. Simple cliche’s such as “Think positive!” really do mean something. I can think myself happy if I carefully monitor my thoughts. Just as I care for my animals and my children–by monitoring what they eat or where they go–I try to monitor my thoughts. I stay away from negative people as much as I can, I don’t listen to the news (I find reading headlines keeps me informed without bringing me down) and I don’t read sad or depressing books or watch those kind of movies.
Instead, I try to feed my thoughts a healthy diet of good things–Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Philippians 4:8, The Bible. Here are some mantras which help me do just this.
- “There are no accidents”. This is a line I repeat to myself often and I’ve come to believe. Life is a journey, not a destination and there are lots of twists and turns on its path. I can choose to think some of those twists and turns are mistakes or I can choose to believe there are no accidents.
- Is this story working for you, Kirsten? When I start to think martyr or sad thoughts, I ask myself if this is a story I want to believe. I know there are a million different ways to look at a situation and I can choose the one that is the most positive. This works really well when someone treats me rudely. I can believe the story that I am not worthy of his/her time or I can believe the story that s/he is mean and hateful or I can believe the story that this person needs empathy and compassion and maybe is having a hard day.
- Yesterday is history. The future is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why they call it the present–The turtle in Kung Fu Panda This brilliant line has helped me learn to stay in the “now”. Jesus also said it well, “So do not worry or be anxious about tomorrow” (Matt. 6:34). There is little I can do about any moment except this one so I try to enjoy the moment in which I am living and rest in it.
- Thank you. These two words–if repeated often enough with a sincere heart–can change my world. There is always something for which to say “Thank you”. “In everything give thanks” (I Thessalonians 5:18).
- I am safe. I can choose to believe this a dangerous, scary world or I can choose to believe that God loves me and supports me. “God is my refuge” (Ps. 91:2).
Sometimes just one of these mantras will pull me from a negative spot and lift me higher. Sometimes I have to use all of them…multiple times…and *still* I feel like hiding under the covers. At those times I ask myself practical questions such as, “Have you eaten anything healthy today?”, “Are you tired?”, “Are you hormonal?” “Do you need to change your environment: rearrange the furniture, change the lighting or go outside?” or “Do you not like what you’re doing right now, and, if so, can you do something else for awhile?” Depending on my answer, I can change my mental state by changing my circumstance. I do understand that this is too simplistic for people who are dealing with chemical imbalances or traumatic events or grief. These suggestions are just a beginning place.
For the majority of my life I believed I was a slave to my emotions: some days were good and some days were bad. I’ve learned, though, that I have more power over my own life than that. I get to choose…so I choose happy.