“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
The snow is falling softly outside my window to the tune of the little drummer boy and my heart is full of so much joy, love and gratitude. Despite the many obstacles I have been faced with the past several months I am feeling warm and full of the real spirit of Christmas.
I remember a moment last week when I was so overcome with sadness that I wondered if there was such thing as a happiness plateau? Do we manage to only create so much happiness and then we just flat line? Even as I contemplated the question I knew the answer. We can only be as happy as we choose to be and the wall that I had hit I had constructed myself with pain and fear and guilt. How can I be any happier when others are suffering? My future is so uncertain so I should be afraid instead of joyful? I am hurting so how can I still be happy? These are the messages that my heart sends to my brain to keep me just happy enough. It is my cross to bear, my mountain to climb, my plateau to surpass.
I have learned so many wonderful things this year and as I reflect on the past eleven months I cannot help but feel that despite the difficult times and uphill battles I have continued to grow as a person. I spent a lot of time by myself, I got to know me again and I took care of me when times got tough. I feel like the W.I.S.E. Principles were a good guideline, they especially helped me in the beginning months of the project when I needed something to focus on other than the bad news that filters through our TV, social media and Facebook everyday.
I think one of the biggest successes for me with this project was recognizing the importance of self love. Charlie Chaplin wrote a poem about self love in which he states “When I began to love myself I stopped stealing my own time and I stopped designing huge projects for the future.”
I have always felt happiest when I am making a contribution but I think at some point I started equating my self worth with how busy I was and how much I was contributing to the lives of others. Some days my biggest contribution is playing a game with my kids or cuddling with my dogs and that is OK.
Chaplin goes on to say “Today, I only do what brings me joy and happiness, things I love to do and that make my heart cheer, and I do them in my own way and in my own rhythm. Today I call it “SIMPLICITY”.
I love this so much, it makes my heart smile.
When you make an honest and firm decision to live mindfully and create a life that brings you joy, it is essential that you prepare to simplify. You may need to limit your exposure to media, certain friends or family members, reconsider your busy schedule and really focus on things that make you feel good.
Things do not look exactly how I expected them to look at this point in the project but to be honest I think they look exactly how they are supposed too. There is always going to be something to overcome, there will be hard times and tears. If your focus is a happy life, no matter what you face you will face it and you will be your own kind of happy. You will find the lesson in pain and you will face each day with grace and gratitude because the only way to invite abundance into your life is to be grateful for what you already have.
Because this is a project it is only fair that I tell you what I have found are the top ten things to creating a happier life.
Sharing-When we share a smile, our time, a kindness or a compliment it activates the pleasure area of your brain. Kind and unselfish actions release endorphin’s in the brain that not only boost happiness for us but also for the stranger we smiled at on the bus or the person we held a door for at the bank. It is one of many simple changes you can make that will make a huge difference in every day. You may need to remind yourself at first to make a small change each day but after awhile this will come naturally.
Improving Relationships– our relationships can be a source of great pleasure and immeasurable pain. Some relationships take more good out of you than they ever give and you need to determine whether they are healthy for you and worth it. Living a good life has a great deal to do with the people we surround ourselves with so making improvements in our relationships, setting boundaries and sharing with and supporting our loved ones is important. it is OK to express our wants and needs but it is also important that we are willing to take a deep look at ourselves and make some changes to promote growth in our most important relationships.
Energy– People and experiences can give us energy or draw it from us. We often are given what we seek in life so if we seek happiness and joy we are often attracted to people that are happy and joyful. You will start to recognize the people that give you energy and those that drain you. Dedicating a lot of time to people that are negative, attention seeking and miserable can be physically and emotionally draining. Some people, like me, draw energy from quiet times alone or with my loved ones and I am drawn to people who not only do good in the world but they seek out good as well. Everything from the shows we watch on TV to the people we follow on social media can add our subtract from our good energy.
Nature-Nature will always give you the answers you seek. A breath of crisp mountain air, the sound of crashing waves, birdsong, trees swaying in the summer breeze, these are all things that can calm and rejuvenate us. We crave these things and often we need to get out of our head and get outside and find a little solace in the great outdoors.
Gratitude-No matter what difficulties we face in our daily lives we always have plenty to be grateful for. Nothing invites abundance into our lives more than being grateful for what we already have. People who are truly grateful for their life, for the people in it, for the sun that greets them in the morning and the moon that lulls them to sleep each night are among the happiest people in the world even when times get tough.
Science/Faith-We all have circumstances and environmental issues that work against us, even our genes which we have no control over can play a factor in our happiness but it is important to always remember that at least 40% of our happiness is intentional and that means we have complete control over it. For me, studying the science behind happiness gave me permission to be in the driver’s seat of my own life, knowing with certainty that my intentions could and would help create the experience I wanted. Faith-I lumped faith in with science and I realize some of you will not like that but I am not going to talk about religion. For many, their religion and their faith is something they are very vocal about. For me it is very personal and as I continue to grow so does my faith. I think it is important to have something to believe in and to trust, to be thankful for in times of abundance and to draw strength from in times of hardship. No matter who or what you pray to I think it is a wonderfully joyous thing to have faith!
Head of the class– We never stop being a student. If we are open to new ideas and we seek opportunities to learn and stay engaged in our lives we trigger a lifelong curiosity and our accomplishments and the knowledge gained help to boost our confidence, self awareness and overall well being. With the internet at our fingertips we have such amazing opportunities to filter through the crap we often accept as fact and commit to real learning and growing as a person.
Indomitable Spirit– We cannot always determine what life will bring us but we can be responsible for the attitude we bring into our lives. We cannot live a life free of pain or circumstance but if we learn from our pain, learn to sit with discomfort and take the lesson from it we will be amazed at how enduring and strong we are. We have the heart of a warrior and though we may be knocked down occasionally the only thing that can hold us down is our own attitude.
Accepting who you are and where you are in life– Emotions like happiness, joy, gratitude and love are the gifts that keep on giving. Though we cannot always control our circumstances and the curve balls life throws at us just when things are going well, we can work hard to take the good out of every situation because those positive feelings I mentioned above are the gateway to a spring of positive emotions. We have to be willing to accept who we are and where we are in life without comparing our lives and accomplishments against those of others. It is a skewed and damaging measuring stick. What we see on the surface and through social media can often paint a distorted view into the lives of others. It is a very small window to a much larger picture. Accepting where we are in life is a very important part of being mindful. If we are focused on the past or on the future we lose sight of the present moment which is so precious and the only thing that is available to us.
Control-people who have a sense of control over their life are the happiest and this can be a little misleading because there is so much of our lives we cannot control but you can do the things you do with purpose and meaning, whether that is being a parent, a friend or an employee. Do what you choose to do in a way you are proud of and develop a sense of who you are, knowing that there will always be another mountain to climb and knowing with certainty that you have the strength and the grace to climb it and continue to grow as a person. You will continue to grow and change every single day, you are not the same as you were yesterday and because you are in control of your life you know that this time next year you will not be the same as today. You are in control!
In the next couple of days I will post the principles for the final month of the W.I.S.E. Project 2016 and some thoughts as we head into the holiday season. Be W.I.S.E. friends.
“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross