Wondering How to be Happy? Look for Joy Each Day!
“If you concentrate on finding whatever is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.”
- Rabbi Harold Kushner, Author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People
When my widowed eighty-year-old father was still alive and living in assisted living, I called him each evening after dinner. Since I lived 2,000 miles away and was unable to be part of his physical care, I made a deal with my siblings. I would call him daily if they would see him regularly and take care of any additional needs he had.
Within a few weeks, the dinner hour became a time of apprehension for me. My father’s entire perspective was full of negative thoughts. I dreaded the ten or so minutes I would spend listening to him complain about his life including the nursing staff, his fellow residents, my mother’s old boyfriends from over sixty-years ago, his mother-in-law, my siblings, his siblings... and the list went on and on.
My daily phone call often left me distraught for the greater part of the evening. His gloom permeated every conversation.
As time continued, I could feel my anger and frustration building. I had to talk to him every day, but something had to change. If it didn’t, I would regret this time and my growing ill feelings.
In desperation, when he first said, “Hello,” I started asking, “What brought you joy today?” This simple question became a powerful start to our conversations. When I first started asking what brought him joy, I got a long, silent pause. The best thing he could come up with was that day’s dessert served at lunch.
“Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts.”
- Henri Frederic Amiel – 19th Century Swiss Philosopher.
I still remember the day, he told me one of the ladies at his dining table wanted more water, and he gave her his glass of water since he was drinking his juice. He told me it made him so happy to be able to help her.
Enjoy What Makes You Happy
Research shows the positive impact on your overall mental health and physical wellbeing is tied to your level of gratitude and your determination to focus on positive thoughts. Happy people are found in all income levels and various stages of life.
“Gratitude, like faith, is a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it grows, and the more power you have to use it on your behalf. If you do not practice gratefulness, its benefaction will go unnoticed, and your capacity to draw on its gifts will be diminished. To be grateful is to find blessings in everything. This is the most powerful attitude to adopt, for there are blessings everywhere.”
- Alan Cohen – Inspirational author
Positive psychology includes discovering what makes you feel good and expressing gratitude for it. Talking daily to my elderly father taught me the following things to help me let go of negative emotions, focus on good habits, and fuel my long-term life satisfaction.
- Keep a Gratitude Journal – When I know I am going to have to express a joy in a journal at the end of the day, I look for joy all day long!
“When we focus on our gratitude, the tide of disappointment goes out, and the tide of love rushes in.”
- Kristin Armstrong, Olympic God Medalist
- Social Connections – We all need a secure connection with a few others including family and close friends. These connections allow us to think of others needs before our own and give us a natural place to serve.
- Give and take are a natural part of life. Other people need you, and there will be times when you need someone to be there for you. Knowing someone has my back brings me a feeling of safety and gratitude.
- Personal Renewal – I love spending time each day doing something that brings a smile to my face even if it is for only a few minutes.
- You can’t buy happiness. But you can make happiness a part of life by allowing yourself to enjoy the small things daily. Listen to the Birds. Smell a flower. Snuggle a child or two. Paint your nails. Put on some music and DANCE. Take a few minutes to enjoy what makes you feel happy.
“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn, or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.”
- Denis Waitley, Author of The Psychology of Winning
- Slowing Down – While planning my day, I try to figure out the most efficient way to get the most things accomplished. When I try to crowd too many things into my day, I become overwhelmed, frustrated, and negative. When I feel these stresses building, I re-exam and prioritize my to-do list. I immediately begin to feel more relaxed as I start dropping things off of the list.
- By slowing down and enjoying what I am doing, instead of fixating on getting what I planned to do done, I discover there is joy in the journey and not only in the destination.
“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”
- Robert Brault, - Author, Round Up the Usual Subjects
- Looking for Good News – We find what we are looking for. If we look for positive things, we will find positive things. If we focus on what is bad in the world or how we have been wronged, we will find that, too.
“If you want to find happiness, find gratitude.”
- Steve Maraboli – Motivational Speaker
- Food is Fuel– Eating real food gives our bodies the macro and micro nutrients we need for optimal functioning. Eating an overabundance of sugar or high-fat snacks always makes us want to eat more sugar and fat. The more junk we eat the more we want. The more we want, the less satisfied we are with life.
- If I really want that piece of high-calorie sugary yumminess, I take my time to enjoy every bite. By savoring each bite, I am satisfied with what I had instead of thinking I need more.
“Enough is a Feast”
- Buddhist Proverb
Overtime my phone conversations with my father changed. I stopped dreading the dinner hour because his joys had begun to flow.
I loved it when he would say, “Something happened today, and I knew you were going to ask me that question, and I was going to tell you it brought me joy, but I can’t remember what it was... You tell me what brought you joy today, and while you are talking maybe I will remember.”
“When you are grateful, fears disappear and abundance appears.”
- Tony Robbins, Self-Help Book Author
This journey with my father taught me to look for joy and express gratitude. Doing so cancels out negative thoughts and lets worries drift away.
It’s been three years since my father passed away, and I miss hearing him express what brought him joy that day. However, when I start feeling like my life is hard and no one understands, I know it is time to ask myself, “What brought me joy today?”
“Wear gratitude like a cloak, and it will feed every corner of your life.”
- Rumi, 13th Century Persian Poet
Article by Miss Jae
Photos are not of Miss Jae or her father