The secret to happiness may be accepting that life can be challenging.
This year has been the most tumultuous and challenging I've ever endured.
To make a long story short, we lost our beloved dog to cancer, my eye surgery failed, I broke my hand and was in a brace for 12 weeks, I had Covid and then an unrelated 7-week sinus infection. There’s more, but I don’t want to bore you.
All of this has made me realize just how precious it is to be happy. Joy will not find you. You must find it wherever you can.
Happiness is hard work.
When life piles on the lemons you have to get tough. On a related note, we have a puppy and in the beginning, she wouldn’t poop outside. A friend told me, “She can be stubborn, but you have to be more stubborn.”
It is the same with pursuing joy. You have to be more stubborn that you deserve the good stuff.
If you read “Fearless After Fifty,” the book I wrote with Desiree Rumbaugh, you’ll know how very hard each of us has had to work to find joy. It’s been hard, and often relentless work.
Once you survive a bad year, or a trauma, you realize what is important in your life. Then you have to be stubborn about finding it.
Be fully present.
It might be surprising, but being fully invested in whatever is happening, whether it is good or bad, is the path to the other side. The only way to recognize when the hardship has passed is to be fully present during it. That way you won’t wallow in the misery long after it has become history.
Recognize that everything is temporary.
Everything is temporary – the good and the bad. We tend to focus on the bad and feel like we are drowning in despair. But the truth is that all experiences are temporary and nothing lasts forever. Both joy and pain will come and go like the changing weather. As soon as you are used to one, the other will come along.
Sometimes when I am in a slump I look around to see how I may be of service. If you can focus on doing things that are helpful or useful, you’d be amazed at how much happiness that will bring. Wondering if you’re happy or not isn’t nearly as satisfying.
Don’t waste your potential.
The author Shawn Achor tells us that “happiness is the joy you feel when you are working towards your potential.” My husband plays golf and he can feel when he’s improving. Even though I’ve been riding horses for years, I still take lessons to better my seat, my leg, the commands I use, and more. It’s not about how much you already know; it’s about what you can still learn on the way to reaching your potential.
Savor the good.
When was the last time you slowed down enough to savor the taste of a single berry or notice the moment the sun peeked over the horizon? If you want to be happy, then you must squeeze every drop of pleasure you can, out of every moment in your life. And be stubborn about it.
Suffering is a choice.
This teaching from the Buddha is hard to understand because suffering is part of life. We get sick, we lose our loved ones, and years like this one just happen. But whether or not we hold ourselves in misery or in good company is completely our choice. Even when life is challenging, you can be determined to find a moment of pure bliss. Yes. You. Can. And you will.
Michelle Berman Marchildon is the Yogi Muse. She’s an award-winning writer and the author of four books on yoga. You can find her at www.michellemarchildon.com or with her puppy who brings her great joy (most of the time).
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