I’m starting a self-care group at work for mental health workers, and as part of my research, I have stumbled on some amazing material that really struck a chord with me. Appreciative living touches on the fact that SO MUCH of how we feel about our lives, our jobs, our families, our happiness in general comes from inside of us. Not from the external circumstances—getting a raise, pressures at work, physical illness, etc. It’s up to us as individuals to choose to see the good in every circumstance.
That’s not to say that you walk around happy as a clam and aren’t bothered by the bad stuff. But it’s making a conscious choice to give at least equal billing to the positives as the negatives. When we do this, it becomes more clear what we want out of life, what we can (and should) change, and what we have no control over.
We live in a problem/solution- focused society where we tend to be attuned and vocal about the problems we encounter, and also quite concerned with how to fix them. But what if the problem was YOU and the solution was also YOU? This isn’t meant to be a guilt-trip, but rather to empower people to realize they can choose happiness. You can choose the silver lining. It just takes some practice, some support, and maybe a little soul-searching. In prepping for my group, I’ve found myself applying this principle to my own life and experiencing a lot more peace and happiness. I’ve been working out almost every day, taking time for myself, and focusing on the positives in several areas of my life that were stressful for me before. Did anything external change? Nope, not really. What changed was my perspective.
****A note about parenting and happiness—studies show that people who have multiple children are less happy than people who have no children, and that at the end of the day, the joys of parenting are about a break-even with the stressors and negative emotions it creates. And yet, we keep on having kids. Armed with that information, lots of people dive in head -first and are incredibly happy to do it. Why? Take this quote by Dr. Browne, a happiness researcher: “What’s crucial to well-being is not how cheerful you feel, not how much money you make, but rather the meaning you find in life and your sense of ‘earned success’ — the belief that you have created value in your life or others’ lives. People find meaning in providing unconditional love for children,” writes Dr. Brooks, who is now president of the American Enterprise Institute. “Paradoxically, your happiness is raised by the very fact that you are willing to have your happiness lowered through years of dirty diapers, tantrums and backtalk. Willingness to accept unhappiness from children is a source of happiness.”
So embrace those dirty diapers--here's to happiness!