Born with DNA pre-programmed to ‘optimism’ and a RBF to throw you off, my default has generally been happy. I always tend towards a sunny disposition, even when my face eludes me. And yet, through the shaky teen years, followed by colossal changes of young adulthood and then to the yawn-inducing-trials of early parenting, my mood toggled to a lower barometer reading of sour. Like so many of you, I have experienced my fair share of the difficult don’t-wanna-get-outta-bed-kinda-days and have had my bit of weeks and yes, sometimes even months, of the dreary doom ‘n’ gloom. Fortunately those dark days are behind me and I live at a much higher vibration due to continued work on my part.
But what is happy, really?
Back in the Bible-thumpin-days of my youth, I ran with a God-Lovin’group of friends who got into the then-heated-debate over the concept of love. To this day, and especially now as a grown-ass adult who’s spent a decade with the same human being, I don’t understand how me and my 17 year old girlfriends were even able to begin to scratch the surface on this debate: is love a feeling or a choice? As I write this, I have some inklings as to which it really is, but ask me again ten minutes from now when I scan the after math of my better half’s attempt at what is supposed to be a “clean kitchen” and I’ll probably have changed my mind even then on whether love is a feeling or a choice.
Many of my then-teeny-friends preached the virtue of choosing to love someone every freaking day, a cursory point when one considers that only two-thirds of their days were actually spent with their then-partners. No one, to my knowledge, had to go home and share a bathroom with their partner. But nevertheless, many felt that one had to choose to love another person in order to maintain a healthy, flourishing relationship. Sitting pretty in the other camp, where I might have resided then too, though I can’t be entirely certain, were my more Disney-fied-friends who held the romanticized notion that love is something that sweeps over a couple, completely independent from brain function. My adult-self accounts for rampant hormones and tingly bits influencing this school of thought, but alas, the question of love being choice or feeling infiltrated our discussion in the lunch room so much so that it has stuck with me into adulthood as I contemplate the concept of happiness.
So, is happy a feeling or a choice?
Holding my children for the first time ever elicited such happiness & joy, completely independent from much thought, that even when my post-partum hormones were wreaking havoc on me, I still felt happy-happy-joy-joy overcome me at times. Legitimate, warm, happy feelings. Not forced. But on the point of PPD and PPA and all the other mental health issues that come with after-birth, finding contentment wasn’t especially easy with two little ones putting demands on me and my chaotic life. My post-partum days were not always sunshine and rainbows, even when I wanted them to be. I was choosing to be happy rather randomly, but it wasn’t flowing to me very easily. A wise counsellor pointed me in the right direction during those early days of motherhood and insisted I do one thing each day that made me happy. Impossible, I thought, as there was no time in my day for anything but diapers and feedings. She persisted however, and encouraged me to find one activity I could do each day, be it only for 20 minutes. Truth be known, she asked me to work up to the twenty minutes by 5 minute increments. Whether it was sitting down with a trashy magazine for five to mindlessly flip through the glossy pages or fixing myself a teeming cup of tea, where I would only enjoy a sip, she was adamant that I had to find one activity a day that brought me joy, even if it was for the teeniest amount of time. I begrudgingly indulged her request and noticed as time went on that my days got easier when I had that specific chunk of time set aside that I could look forward to. Trust me when I say, it was hard work to build happiness into my day; a conscious effort which never seized. But over time it became second nature, so much so that my family even began to recognize its importance too. And guess what? My mood improved drastically as sour was removed from my vernacular when I chose to carve out a part of my day that made me feel happy and alive. Me Time became joy-inducing. Actually. And even today, whether it’s ten minutes or ninety, having time for myself legitimately lifts my spirits and gives me much to be thankful for. And I choose to ride that happiness wave as much as I can and encourage others to do the same.
Like I said earlier, though, being in a happy mindset can be a lot of work, especially when forced to step away from the built in time designed to bring you enjoyment.
When my personal life got rocky 18 months ago, I was contemplating throwing in the towel on nearly everything I considered extraneous- work & friends, namely. Life was wearing me down and I let it sweep me up in its miserable current. Even though my DNA kept tapping me on the shoulder to remind me that I wanted to be happy, I was fixated on the fact I wasn’t and spent an obstinate amount of time wishing I were instead of doing anything about it. During this period of time I stumbled upon a powerful discovery that would alter the trajectory of 2016. I learned about affirmations. These are positive statements, much like the ones I publish on Unleighshed Potential, which repeated over time, can actually improve one’s outlook on any given situation. There are lots of good articles out there that can describe the science behind the phenomenon of positive thinking for you, so I won’t attempt to try, but do look it up if you’ve found yourself scratching your head over this. Point is, when you change your thinking you can change your life. Epic. Let me say that again: when you change your thinking, you can change your life. True story.
I put the words “Happy, Healthy, Thriving” everywhere, from my dashboard to bathroom mirror so that when the going got tough I would see the words umpteen times a day, forcing me to think more positively. I even built the language into the bedtime routine with kids as I reminded them that they are “Happy, Healthy, Thriving” kids. Hubby and I would repeat these words first thing in the morning and right before bed. I got all hell-bent on being happy and found that this affirmation alone was wildly effective. Even now when I start to find my thinking shifting to a more negative space, I’ll dig this handy affirmation out of the vault to reinfuse the happy into my life. It works. Actually.
So is happiness a feeling or a choice?
I describe it as both because the uppy-joy-vibes of contentedness can sweep over you at any point, sure, but holding on to its essence through your entire day is a deliberate decision. It’s work, really. Good work, but work nonetheless.
So if you aren’t happy and can’t remember the last time you were, what are you going to do about it? To start, I hope you’ll hop onto Unleighshed Potential (available on FB or Insta) for your daily dose of hells-yeah and high-vibin’ energy. Next, see what taking a few minutes out of your day for JUST YOU does to your state of mind and throw in a positive affirmation for good measure. There are lot’s of those on my social media sites to get you started, too, so don’t’ be shy!
Wishing happiness to all (it is possible, trust me)
xo, Unleighshed Potential