How to get your happy back

A clay pot sitting in the sun will always be a clay pot. It has to go through the white heat of the furnace to become porcelain.
~ Mildred Witte Stouven

After my husband died suddenly, I thought my life was over, and that I would never be happy again. I was wrong. While life will never be the same again, it can still be good.

Doug and his dad working and playing hard
Doug knew how to have fun - even when working.

After a significant loss, you may be absolutely miserable. If you were miserable before the loss, that misery may be exacerbated. If you were happy before the loss, you are probably more resilient

"Scientists believe that 50% of our happiness is controlled by our genes, which is known as the happiness set point. Meanwhile, just 10% is based on the circumstances of our lives: status, money, career and the objects we surround ourselves with. The remaining 40% is believed to be subject to intentional behavior and choices." (Forbes, Top Seven Ways To C'Mon Get Happy, 02/10/2012, based on the documentary "Happy.")

It is possible to get your happy back. Leading scientists in happiness research recommend the following. These approaches have definitely helped me.

  • Spend some quality time with family, friends, and your community.
  • Engage in physical activity. It's a natural source of endorphins. "Moreover, losing yourself in an activity or hobby that gives you great joy, something psychologists have called “flow,” boosts happiness and fulfillment."
  • Make some changes in your life - add variety by walking a different route, try a new activity, bet a puppy or a kitten. Look at adversity as an opportunity to redirect your life.
  • Practice gratitude. Once a week, list five things you are grateful for. Say thank you and mean it.
  • Volunteer. It gets you out of the self-pity pit. You will feel like you are making a difference, and perhaps meet some new people or learn some new things in the process.
  • Redefine "success." It's not all about money. There is no significant difference in happiness between people who make $50,000 and $50,000,000 a year. Fame, power, good looks, and working too hard don't help much either. Make time for play.
  • Do the things that make you happy. This requires self-knowledge. It might be creating something, experiencing nature, tending a garden watching a funny movie - do whatever works for you.

I'm not talking about a pollyanna approach where you force yourself to think only happy thoughts even though your heart is broken. The only way out of grief is through it. Processing grief will involve periods of sadness, anxiety or anger. However, you don't want to get stuck there. In the interim, be patient and kind with yourself.

Some people unconsciously feel that experiencing happiness is a kind of betrayal of the person who lost their life. The opposite is more likely. If the person you lost cared about you as much as you cared about them, they would probably want you to be happy again someday. No amount of misery will bring them back.




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