I am not a happy person.
Not naturally, anyway. And no, I’m not talking about having depression (though I have), or suffering from an anxiety disorder (which I do), or that I’ve just had an overwhelming number of bad things happen to me and those I love (been through that phase before). I’m talking about the fact that my natural tendency is to worry, to overthink, and to be so concerned about whether things are the way they should be, or are going the right direction. So my natural tendency is not to be happy, not to be in the moment, not to be able to just enjoy things.
I have often hated myself for this. I see people who are just always in a good mood and happy, who seem so optimistic and the inner monologue starts about why can’t I just enjoy this amazing life I have, what is wrong with me, I need to fix myself… and on and on.
But here’s the funny thing. I actually asked the people I admire for their constant cheerfulness, because I was ready to max out my credit card and attend whatever expensive wellness retreat that got them in this mind space. But it boiled down to one thing – it’s a choice for them. It’s just that simple, and that hard. They aren’t necessarily naturally happy. They have faith, or mindfulness, or gratitude practices, or therapists, or a combination of these things to help them choose happiness as often as possible. Their effort is real… just unseen.
So, I am not a happy person. But I do often feel happiness, and even more so, I have a life full of joy if I can just pause long enough to feel it. I have realized that the biggest joys are in the smallest moments. I can name so many, and I don’t run out of them.
Those initial moments of some of my favorite big memories, like the first moment walking through Parc Guel in Barcelona, the moment my oldest son scored his first goal at soccer, that dinner where Eli was so in love with spaghetti he was covered in it from head to toe at with the biggest smile, the moment I accepted my dream job…
And small moments that happen nearly everyday, like my kids’ belly laughs for no apparent reason, that first sip of coffee in the quiet of my office at work, when my dog Bella greets me so enthusiastically when I come home everyday, the beauty of the flowers on my porch I see as I come and go.
There is so much joy to be felt and lived in the small moments of our days. Big, important days; normal, boring days; awful, hard days; there are moments we can embrace joy. It’s worth taking the time to pause and feel that joy – truly live those moments. Because they are just moments, fleeting, easy to miss.
I don’t think any of us are naturally happy people as adults. Life is hard and scary, and full of growing up, responsibilities, mistakes, wrongs done to us and wrongs we’ve done to others. This can overshadow the moments that joy. But those people who seem to live in happiness and spread cheerfulness? They’ve learned to not let those moments slip by unnoticed. They put in the effort to find and feel those moments and truly live in them.
Which means we can all be those people, too, if that’s what we want. We all can make those choices. We can be more aware, bring ourselves back to present, focus on the good things, and be the good in the world. We can decide to believe life is more happy than sad, more good moments than bad, and live with that focus every day.
But it’s effort. It’s a choice. It’s a choice to make moment to moment, day to day, all our lives. But I’d rather make a conscious choice of joy than live life on auto-pilot wondering why happiness is so fleeting. How about you?
Truth, though? It’s not easily done. It’s really hard, especially as a working mom. I feel like we are set up to fail, with too much going on to ever just be in the moment. There are so many expectations on me from society and myself. Be a Pinterest Mom for parties and decor, exercise and eat healthy, teach my kids these habits, keep my career on track, stay in touch with friends, build holiday memories and traditions with the kids. Oh and you have to parent your children the right way – you’re raising the next generation of citizens, after all. There’s Conscious Parenting, Attachment Parenting, Gentle Parenting… don’t be too over-bearing, but then make sure you know what’s going on with your kids all the time. We’re supposed to have it all for ourselves, do it all for everyone else, and enjoy the process. And not ever be too exhausted to keep it going. But here’s the thing – I would get so caught up in trying to create this expected life, I never stopped to ask myself if what I was creating was actually making me, or my family, truly happy. Were there moments of joy in these expectations that I was just missing, or was I crushing the joy out of the moments altogether?
Through a lot of trial and error and starting-stopping-restarting my efforts, I’ve found that there are simple ways to be more aware, to catch those joyous small moments, to make choices based on what brings me and my family joy, which leads to an overall happy life. I’ve become more cheerful in daily life – someone has actually said to me I bring such good energy and easily connect with people! I never thought I’d hear said about myself. The methods that work for me are simple and straightforward – which is what makes them so hard! They’re easy to skip, easy to forget, and we love to over-complicate things.
But there’s a reason simplicity and minimalism are so on trend right now. Simple solutions, easy actions – that is what works. Simple is repeatable, which build habits, and that works over time to make changes.
So join me, and learn about finding BIG joy in small moments. That’s where the authentic happiness is – in the little things, which become the big things over time.