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"I'll be happy when..." A common phrase many of us have uttered. I'll be happy when the bills are paid. I'll be happy when my spouse gets home. I'll be happy when we are living in our new home. I'll be happy when I leave this job. I'll be happy WHEN. The problem is every time you reach the WHEN you work towards your next one, never to reach this happiness you long for.
Putting off your happiness until an arbitrary time is harmful to your well-being. Regardless of how innocent this phrase seems, I find it to be part of the larger issue of mindset. I've had to learn to find the beauty in the chaos. I began by finding just one thing I could appreciate during my happiness sabbatical. If a messy home is causing me stress I choose to instead look at how thankful I am for having a home. Then I can work on tidying up in a better mood. It seems so simple to just look at the bright side, but it is something many of us overlook.
Although, sometimes it is not enough to turn your mood around. Sometimes the feelings go deeper than a simple mess. When I see or experience suffering I find it helps to go out of my way to help someone else unrelated to the situation. When my husband totaled his car, I chose to be thankful that he was unscathed; however, that did not fix the financial and emotional burden of finding new transportation. You could say my next move was irresponsible, but when I went grocery shopping that day I chose to pay for the next person's groceries as well. It was less than $100. It was not going to buy us a car. It was not going to change our situation, but hopefully it changed someone else's day. My perspective of my own situation also changed. It felt good to brighten someone else's day rather than wallow in a pity party for myself. Your actions do not have to be financial to give you this same satisfaction.
Another example: The power plant my husband worked at shut down putting 5,000 families's incomes on hold—including ours. We immediately went to work finding new jobs, but it took three jobs to stack up to the income we needed to sustain us. On top of that I was currently going through my own health crisis and our insurance ended with the job. Times were tough. We struggled to provide for our children, and to stay positive. These things happen to all of us. I was (and continue to be) so thankful for our support system and everyone around us who rallied to help.
My children and I started a list of service projects we could complete on our new income. We picked up litter at parks. We donated our used clothes and toys. We spent an extra $5 every shopping trip, and at the end of the month donated that food to The Ronald McDonald House. We found ways to contribute that would brighten our worlds and others as well. One of my son's favorite things to do is return the carts of everyone at the grocery store when they are finished shopping. It is a small act but it makes him SO HAPPY to help! It gave him something he could control, and a way to contribute positivity when he knew times were tough. Children can often feel the burden of stressful times, and I was thankful we all found healthy ways to cope. Sometimes I think that is the only way we made it through.
No one expects you to be happy all the time. Life is about experiencing all the highs and lows, learning your lessons, and growing stronger. Let yourself feel how you naturally feel in any given situation. However, don't let yourself stay there. That is where it gets dangerous. Go out and find the happiness you deserve.
Times get dark, but your mind doesn't have to go with them. As tough as it is, I encourage you to reach out and bring that happiness back to you. If you put it off to a later date you are inviting negativity to take the place of it. We all need a little light in even the darkest of times.