We face a lot of things in life that seem hard and stressful – relationship challenges, health challenges, deaths of friends and loved ones, financial problems. Sometimes several of these things hit us at the same time, and it can seem like we will never make it through.
Then there are those happy times – weddings, vacations, the birth of a child, a new job, a raise, someone wonderful coming into our lives. We feel refreshed, exhilarated, peaceful, or warm and fuzzy. The days seem brighter, and we have energy to spare.
Life will always hold these contrasts, and much of the time there is nothing we can do to change things. I have found though that we can make life easier and happier if we remember some simple things:
1) Life is change. If we try to get things to remain the same, we are setting ourselves up for pain and disappointment. Give thanks for the happy times, thoroughly enjoy and appreciate them. Breathe and try to relax through the tough times, letting the emotions of pain, sadness, or grief move up and through you. Don’t try to repress those feelings. Experience them, release them, and remember that because change is a part of life, that “this too shall pass”. We can only be fully alive when we stay in the present moment experiencing it as it comes and not resisting it.
2) Everything in life is better if we keep ourselves as healthy as possible. If I allow too much processed food, sugar, or caffeine into my diet, it isn’t long before I feel the effects – impatience, irritability, low energy, inability to concentrate or relax. We have to remember to keep moving too – every day incorporating exercise into our lives that we enjoy. Aerobic exercise dissipates stress hormones in our body such as cortisol and adrenaline and stimulates the production of endorphins, the body’s natural mood elevators
3) See “problem” people in your life as teachers. I believe that no one is in our lives by accident. When I have to interact with difficult people, I try to see what I can learn from the situation. Am I being too demanding and expecting everyone to conform to my thinking or my way of doing things? Do I just need to learn to be more patient, less judgmental, or more compassionate? Can I somehow learn to see this person through a different lens, try to see the good in them, and show them through my words and actions that they have real value and worth? Do I need to learn to be more assertive, stand up for myself more, or show people that I need to have some boundaries? If we stop looking at people as the “problem”, we open up the door to the lessons we can learn.
4) If there aren’t enough happy occasions in our lives, we can create them. Decorate, celebrate, try new foods, do something you love, do something good for a stranger or a friend. I read recently of a woman who used her own birthday as a reason to do random acts of kindness all day long – taping $2 in quarters to a self-service car wash, leaving several packages with three diapers in each on the changing table in a public restroom, paying for the next person in line at a Starbucks drive-through. When we do something good for someone else, those same feel-good chemicals are produced in our bodies that come from having good done to us. We can sit and lament the fact that we are lonely or there is so much evil or sadness in the world, or we can bring in more beauty, joy, and goodness. It’s been shown that winning the lottery or falling in love can cause our level of happiness to go up a bit for a year or so, but finding small things that make us feel good and doing them on a regular basis is a greater contributor to our overall level of happiness.
5) Live less from your head and more from your heart. The mind seems almost unrelenting in its attempt to get us to worry and see the negative in a situation or person. When we focus too much on the thoughts in our heads, apparent problems can seem catastrophic or unsolvable. The mind is a great computer and has its place in organizing and planning, but on its own makes a poor leader. Yes, think things through and seek wise counsel, but learn to listen to your intuition also. Take time for quiet, contemplation, being out in nature, prayer, journaling.
6) Remember that no problem is unsolvable and we really are equipped to handle anything that comes into our lives. Positive affirmations only work if we truly believe that God can”make a way where there seems to be no way”.