Sunday, May 20, 2012

Ten steps towards happiness

Jane was looking at something online earlier today and ended up finding a website that was not related to her search but turned out to have some intriguing information. Isn't it fun when that happens? This particular blog is about getting the most out of life. You can find it at mysuperchargedlife (dot com, of course).

So the author's premise, and one Jane embraces heartily, is that happiness is mostly created within us. There are a whole lot of people running around chasing happiness with all their energy. Do they find it? Unlikely, because the most powerful source is exactly where they are not looking. If they were to slow down and contemplate for a bit they might realize that, like Dorothy while visiting Oz, the key to their happiness has been within their grasp all along.

This blogger divided the list into five things to stop doing and five things to start doing. Fair enough. It's nice to have a mixture.

First on the list is to stop being negative. Jane is jumping up and down right now (in a very positive sort of way), agreeing. Negativity does absolutely no good except to draw more of the same to you. And does that look like happiness? No, it does not.

Next? Stop unfavorable comparisons. There will be people who have more than you and people who have less than you. This is the way of the world. Deal with it.

Stop worrying so much. If you are filled with worry, if your sleep is not peaceful, if your stomach hurts with the anxiety, what has that accomplished? Nothing, beyond turning you into a tired person with a stomach ache. Make a plan. If things change, make another.

This next one is great. Stop being so easily offended. For Pete's sake, people. Not everything is meant as a great big personal offense. Sure, some things are...and you will know them when they smack you upside your head. Avoid those people. But in general we are way too quick to take offense when none is intended. Jane likes to remember that there might indeed be one tiny point in the universe around which everything revolves...but that point is not her.

Stop living for tomorrow. This goes along with chasing happiness. If you are always waiting for tomorrow to arrive because then you'll have enough to be happy or meet the right people so you can be happy or experience the next best exciting event so you can be happy you are going to be seriously disappointed. Why? Because just like Annie's song, tomorrow is always a day away. Why not be happy today?

Next comes the start list.

Start finding the good. This sounds so basic, but Jane has found that many people put a lot of energy into finding the negative. If you concentrate on the good, you will find it easier and easier to recognize it in your life every day.

Start practicing gratefulness. Jane has blogged about having a gratitude journal. Definitely one of the most powerful things she does daily. It gets easier and easier to embrace the little blessings and to find them everywhere. Do it. No, really. Do it right now.

Here's something Jane has also mentioned. Start realizing you have choices. Oh, yes, you do. Maybe you couldn't do anything about whatever somebody else chose, but you can decide what happens next in terms of your own choices. Attitude is, after all, altitude.

Start planning happiness activities. What little things do you like to do that boost your spirits? Browse in the library? Meet a friend for ice cream? Dig in the dirt? Cook? Have an idea of these and them. Yes, it really is that simple.

Start helping someone less fortunate. It's amazing what this does for your own happiness. Reaching beyond your own egocentric existence creates an immediate feeling that grows from a little nudge to a great big shove into the land of happiness.

That was the list, both the stops and the starts. Jane thinks it is good stuff and wanted to share. Simple, right? But if it were so simple why isn't everyone doing this? Why, indeed?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Jane's two arms

Jane read something the other day. It stuck in her mind, replayed throughout the week and now here it is getting blog time. Obviously this has significance to her.

God gave us two arms. It's up to us to decide whether to cling to the past or embrace the future.

Many times we don't even think about this. Our actions and reactions are instinctive and we move along almost (almost, mind you) effortlessly. Clinging to the past or embracing the future isn't something we even consider because we're just doing it, you know? We're going on with the business of life.

But after a great biggie bump in the road, what do we do with those arms? Sometimes we wrap them so tightly around ourselves that we create a very solid suit of armor. Sometimes we refuse to face forward and reach with determination back into what was, the familiar that we still want to embrace. Because if we actually turn around and confront the unknown future, we might have to let go of the past. Or forever remain twisted up in an attempt to do both.

Jane understands the need to do that for a bit. After all, it's challenging if not completely impossible to bounce up and race forward with a grin on our faces and our arms outstretched. Gimme some future! I'm ready! So a certain amount of clinging to the past is natural. Maybe it even provides a recovery buffer.

Until it doesn't. The tricky part is realizing when that happens and accepting it and releasing our grasp on the past and turning around and reaching out for whatever might come. For the totality of possibilities. Sometimes we don't even realize we're doing the clinging. Sometimes it's so very apparent to everyone but us and when we finally join in on the collective realization we can hear the huge sigh of relief from all our friends and family.

Clinging to the past feels secure because it's what we know. Embracing the future feels like a great big butterfly in our stomachs. It's so very tempting to keep clinging. But Jane knew right from the start that she did not want to miss out on the great and delicious wonders the future would bring. After her grieving time, after she relaxed her arms and shifted her stance and peered cautiously over her shoulder at...gulp...the future, she knew what she was going to do. She knew she would take the first tentative step, and then the next, until she was turned towards the road leading to the unknown. And she would extend her arms, not to shield herself but to embrace the wonderful, exciting future.

The past? Jane wishes she never had to let it go. But in a way, she doesn't. It's part of her, those experiences, part of what makes her Jane. What makes her smile, what makes her think, what makes her strong. Knowing that, Jane can step along the new road with the comfort of bringing the best part of her past with her.

That gives her the confidence and the power to open her embrace even more.