Having just emerged from a year filled with disappointment, loss, injury, sadness, pain and more disappointment, I’m determined to make 2013 a better year.
Silly me to think that it’s that easy.
As if these things were under my control.
A girl can wish, right?
Not to be deterred, here’s what I decided is under my control. And I want to share some things that are definitely more realistic:, not just for me, but for anyone out there who wants to be happy (or happier):
Smile – even when that’s the last thing you feel like doing. There something about the act of turning the corners of your mouth up – and science supports this - that transforms your mood. It’s not only contagious when someone else does it, but when you do it yourself, you kind of want to keep it up. Really! Try it. You’ll see.
Master a hobby. Learn a new skill. Learn to knit. Make jewelry. Paint. Play the piano. (That’s something I’ve started – and stopped – since I was probably around eight, when my mother insisted I take lessons – and practice, practice, practice. I liked the lessons well enough, but I hated practicing. So, I quit. And then tried it again when I was a newlywed. And then quit again. And tried it again when…well, you get the picture. Maybe this time, I’ll stick with it?) Mastering something and working through the frustrations, blocks, negative self-talk, etc., takes time. It takes the wind out of your sails at times. But sticking with it and getting it right (not all the time, but even some of the time) can be oh-so-satisfying.
And while you’re at it, express yourself. My friend and fellow writer, Nancy Monson, says this about the art of crafting: “The creative arts, my crafts, keep my hands, heart, and mind busy, and sometimes I think they’re the only things that keep me sane.” Any kind of self-expression, whether it comes from a craft, hobby, dance, music, what-have-you, feels good and is ultimately satisfying to your soul.
Be true to yourself. About a year ago I was a guest at a dinner party where the host was serving meat. But I don’t eat meat. Years ago, I faced a similar circumstance and guess what I did? I ate the meat. And then got really uncomfortable. (If you haven’t eaten meat in 20 years and then try to digest it, strange noises and sensations happen in the abdominal area…not to mention the psychic pain that goes along with that.) But I’m old enough now, in the prime of this so-called midlife, to speak up and not feel funny about doing so. So I did. Sure, the host was a wee bit embarrassed, but I didn’t make a big deal of it and instead, ate a double portion of the rice that was served alongside the meat.
Don’t stoop to someone else’s level. When someone treats me badly, my tendency is to withhold and treat them badly in return. But that feels lousy. And lately I’ve begun to realize that I’m feeling badly twice: not only about their actions toward me, but now I’m also feeling lousy because I’m doing the thing that they do that makes me feel badly. (Did that make sense?) It’s a lose-lose proposition. Being nice, considerate, generous, kind feels right to me. It’s who I am. Usually. So, I’m just gonna do it. (A word of caution, though: That doesn’t mean you can walk all over me. I do have my limits, after all.)
Make it public. If you really are serious about changing, one of the best ways I’ve found is to announce your intention. Out loud. Tell yourself, write it down. But also tell someone else – and you’re more likely to succeed. Very few of us like to let another person down and look like a slacker to them and a failure to ourselves.
Don’t look beyond nature. I have to admit that while I was in the throes of my unhappiness, I had the urge for some retail therapy. And although I knew it would only be a temporary fix and that it wouldn’t last, I went online and ordered a new handbag that was on sale that I really didn’t need anyway. (Oh – those four letters! They always tempt me.) Five days letter, when it was delivered, I had begun feeling a little better; I looked at it and not only didn’t like it but wondered why in the world I ordered it in the first place. That same night, I stepped outside to take the garbage out and glanced up to notice the most magnificent velvety black sky illuminated with stars. That’s what really did the trick and has stuck with me ever since. It filled me more than a handbag ever could.
So, spill. Let’s get the list up to 10, 20, even more. What is it that you want to do – need to do – to be happier? I’m sure there are other ideas floating around out there.