With the summer coming to the end, my clients are talking about how the months got away from them so quickly, and wondering why they don’t feel like they really enjoyed themselves. Often this leads to questions about what it means to be happy.
It seems to me that, during times of the year when we are “supposed” to be happy, we are more likely to question our own happiness. Am I right?
The challenges of dealing with chronic conditions can feel especially hard to face during certain times of the year like the summer and the holidays when so many of the people around us appear to be living it up, at least on the surface. But if you’re dealing with medication regimens, diet limitations, mobility challenges, symptoms, side effects… all the summer pressures to go-go-run-run can leave you feeling that you spent part of your summer sitting on the sidelines or, on the other hand, tried to keep up and ended up chasing your own tail until you got tired of running.
And this summer, a lot of us have also been feeling the uncertainty of the economy and the other problems of the world. That’s a lot of weight to carry around, right?
Happy? What are you, crazy?
Real happiness starts with your own attitude and your expectations. That’s all inside. And that means that we all have an equal opportunity to find and grab onto happiness, regardless of the challenges we might be facing.
No matter what time of year it is, here are some ideas to cultivate happiness in your life:
Accept yourself. You don’t have to prove yourself to anyone else. And if you constantly compare yourself to others, you are sooner or later going to come up short. Instead, accept that each of us in our own individual path in life, we have strengths, weaknesses, joys, challenges. Let go of the woulda-coulda-shouldas and accept where you are at this moment in time. Ease up on the self-criticism. You’re doing the best you can.
Take care of yourself. If you are dealing with a chronic condition, you already know how important self-care is. Make it a priority to do everything possible to promote your own wellness. In other words, take responsibility for yourself. If you are concerned that this is a selfish attitude, remember that you if you aren’t taking the best possible care of yourself, you can’t be there for others.
Get out of yourself. It’s easy to get caught up in worrying about ourselves, and lamenting what we don’t have. Balance your self-care with reaching out to others. Giving has a way of giving back, starting with checking in on the people and throwing a little love in their direction. Be a friend to others, that’s the best way to have friends. We are all in this together.
Learn to handle some frustration. We all have a few – or a lot of – ideas about what the world should look like, how other people should behave, and what should be coming out way. But getting so attached to those ideas can only lead to frustration. It’s human to want to be in control, but the world around us is uncontrollable. Relax those expectations, accept that things aren’t going to go your way, and try relaxing yourself while you’re at it.
Enjoy the simple joys of life. Try sweating the small stuff, or at least acknowledging the little things that make you happy. Getting up in the morning and going through your routine, talking to a friend, getting outside in the sun. The potential for moments of happiness is all around you.
Accept others. We’re all dealing with a lot right now. Sometimes that brings out the best in us, and sometimes not. Sometimes people are going to think like us, sometimes they aren’t. When you accept yourself for who you are, it is a whole lot easier to also accept others for who they are. (You might have to forgive a few of them along the way.) Remember: compassion is a boomerang.
Give in to change. The only thing we can really count on is that things change. You’ve already seen it in your own life – chronic conditions bring all kinds of change into your life. The more flexible you can be – ready, willing, and able to shift your priorities, and change your routine – makes it easier to live with uncertainty. Resistance just leads to more resistance… and headaches.
Embrace your spirituality. Having spiritual or religious beliefs, and being involved in regular practice of those beliefs, can make go a long way toward strengthening your foundation and giving you additional tools for coping with the bumps in the road.
Get passionate about something. What do you love in your life? A hobby? Your work? Your family? A grandchild? Community service? Politics? One of the keys to happiness is having something that you are excited about, that inspires you to be creative, that you “lose yourself” in and that you want to tell other people about (though you may want to be a little careful about the politics, a sensitive topic).
(Be a multimillionaire. Sorry, just couldn’t stop myself. I don’t know if this will make you happy or not. I keep hearing that it won’t. But I would be willing to volunteer for an experiment if anyone wants to throw a few million in my direction. Anybody want to join me?)
See? Like I said earlier, happiness is something that you can cultivate in yourself, working from the inside out. What’s working for you? Any ideas to share?
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