Three Ways to Know If You’re Connecting to Happiness. . .

An eye gazing through a small hand-held mirror

If you read Mindful magazine, as I try to each month, you’ve likely come across the article offering these three insights into the pursuit of happiness.

I thought the wisdom on these three points was particularly valuable so, I’m going to tease apart their pointers and share some of myself as I do. . .

  • When you say hello to yourself in the mirror, do you have full appreciation for the person who looks back at you? If not, happiness will be impossible to find. Enjoy being you and notice how taking delight in yourself in all your gory-glory serves as the foundation for full-on happiness”!

I thought it was particularly poignant to note that self-appreciation lies at the core of being a happy person – embracing both the beauty and the beast that lives in each of us is essential. Recognizing that wherever we find ourselves in life the capacity to enjoy the composite, conglomerate of aggregate that has formed the whole of us (each of us) is essential to being able to find a firm footing for discovering true happiness.

I don’t always LIKE what I see in the mirror (and I’ve found 70 a particularly rough year for personal appearance changes) I have to admit that I appreciate what I see – I’ve earned the now-slightly-deeper lines and every one of those grey hairs. My life has not always been easy, but it has been at times, spectacularly blessed. All of that looks back at me and, if I’m honest with myself, I have to admit that it is the WHOLE story that’s made me who I am.

  • “When you look at your life, exactly as it is, can you appreciate every experience? Even challenges bring you happiness when you can see how interesting everything is”.

Every life has challenges. Some, more than others, and some it seems must endure life’s challenges for longer stretches of time. But hardship is a relative term.

When I was a child, we were poor. The honest truth is that I didn’t really grasp that until it was time for me to go to college. I was just a generally happy kid who came home to a warm bedroom and an affectionate border collie. It wasn’t until I was nearly 18 that I realized three financial facts about our nuclear family:

  • We ate a LOT of pasta (and I thought it was just that we were Italian!) because that’s what we could afford – and as any working mother knows, rice, beans and pasta can stretch a little meat to feed whoever shows up for supper.
  • College wasn’t in our budget – so I had to threaten my father with the pursuit of minor emancipation before he’d fill out the standard FAFSA forms (revealing his income) so I would qualify for scholarships.
  • Owning a home is expensive and we were renters for all of my childhood. Homeownership didn’t crest 50% of Americans until the middle of the last century, about the time I was born – now, while it sits at roughly 65%, many mortgage holders don’t feel fully secure.

And, given that I went into nursing as my career, one wouldn’t expect that I was ever planning to become a wealthy person, however, like hardship, wealth is also a relative term!

Having “enough” is certainly a solid start for the pursuit of happiness and yet we know that there are many happy people among the world’s poor and many unhappy folks among the world’s richest households.

Self-care is every conscious action you take that feeds your soul, nourishes your body, nurtures your spirit, or replenishes your relationship with yourself!

  • “When you take care of yourself and others, notice how that can make you happy. You can be happy if you can be OK with whatever life serves up, knowing that life is a brief gift. We can be happy when we dive in and live it all fully”!

Ah, there’s the mystery of it all. . . to “be OK with whatever life serves up” – that’s where the rubber generally hits the road. Most of us can be just fine when life is looking up. It is the genuinely contented person who can “be OK” when life starts handing out lemons. Maybe you’ve met them on the road of life…

  • The migrating family from Hurricane Ian’s path of destruction who lost pretty much everything but tells you that they’re safe, headed toward the comfort of relatives, and glad to be alive in spite of it all.
  • The elderly woman that you meet in the nursing home who’s happy to show you the cards she’s received and collected over the years from her grand-kids. The cards appear several years old, but still, she’s grateful for each one of them.
  • The working man who proudly washes his truck in the driveway. He’s been on the job for over 50 years now and he owns this truck. He may not own much else, but this is sufficient to make him feel positive about his life.

What does it take to make you happy? Are you a person who can take stock of your life and be content with who you’ve become and the life lessons it took to get you to this place? Are you an individual who can “be OK” when the road gets rough, and you feel alone on your journey?

Here’s what I know…I’m not always a pleasant person, but I’m able to be self-accepting and sometimes, even self-compassionate. I’m good with the journey so far, including the good, the bad, and the ugly I’ve encountered – living through it all has made me who I am. I’m still not done and the place where I know I have much work to do is that part about “being OK” when I don’t get what I want or worse, I get the thing I really didn’t want – I still like to have my way!

We all have work to do, but happiness is possible. It’s really an inside job. It’s about coming to terms with who you are, what shaped you, and deciding who you want to be, in spite of it all.

I want to be a kinder person. I want to be a happier person. I want to be a gentle person. Thankfully, I’ve got some time to work through those lessons in the days ahead.

Wherever you find yourself – know that I’d love for you to be that person you long to be – the one your dog thinks you already are! As you make your way along this journey please know, I’m here to travel it with you. That’s what a coach is for!

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About Paula

I help other caregivers – both professionals and family caregivers – acknowledge their pain and learn to practice the many small skills of self-care that can sustain them through the challenges of wholeheartedly caring for others.

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