…by Julie Clark Robinson

            You did it! You\’ve given yourself a break. You\’re reading – what\’s more, you\’re reading something that\’s not a To Do list, a bill, ingredients or the fine print on the back of a speeding ticket. Well done.

(I\’m giving you the benefit of the doubt here – I\’m assuming that you\’re sitting down, dare I hope that your feet are up as well?)

At least for today, you can say you were able to carve out a few minutes for yourself. That means, even if the rest of the day goes south, you were able to create a pocket of pure joy for yourself. If you continue on this path from this day forward, in the end, hopefully, you should be able to look back at your life and consider that it was a happy one. 

          Okay, okay, I\’m not THAT much of a simpleton! I realize it takes more than a few minutes a day to your self in order to achieve such a lofty goal. But this kind of conscious effort in several areas of your life is destined to make a tangible difference in your level of happiness. It takes knowing what you need and making sure that you incorporate these things in your life, as often as you possibly can – ideally every single day. Equally important is that you need to recognize what your obstacles are, and stomping them out as best you can.

          Chances are, you\’re already familiar with the roadblocks in life. They tend to pop up in much the same willy-nilly manner as those little ambushes in Pac Man – sporadic but ever-so present. There are ways to create your own mental treasure chest to tap into in order to turn your bad feeling into a better day — whether it\’s a romantic relationship that leaves you feeling vulnerable or an age-old family dynamic that rears its ugly head at every get together. You can create your own happiness triggers for demeaning employers, gloomy weather and even world events that bring a dull ache to your heart.

          It\’s a simple matter of taking control of every day, every moment and not letting the bad things in life get the better of you. In my forty-some odd years, I\’ve pretty much broken this process down to a formula that I gladly share with all who care to listen:

  • Be aware of your mood at all times.
  • When you start to feel it go down, stop and try to identify what\’s happening.
  • Reach into your “bag of tricks” and put your solution into action as soon as you can.
  •           Creating your bag of tricks is truly the fun part. I call them our “happiness triggers” and we all have our very own. It\’s a simple matter of taking the time to really get to know yourself and what you need to feel joy. Only then are you fully equipped to make sure that you inject it into every single day of your life.

    Let me give you a couple examples:

    “I really should return (fill in name here)\’s phone call.” 

    Been there. Done that far too many times. Sometimes our lives are so full of societal obligations that we just want to hide. And it\’s hard to be happy under a rock, I\’ve noticed. So, you\’ve got to take a deep breath, stand tall and rid yourself of the kind of relationships that no longer add true value to your days. You know what I\’m talking about. The neighbor who drains you of 20 precious moments by complaining every time you cross paths. The person who used to be a valuable part of your life, but that was twenty years, three children and two husbands ago. Ann Landers wrote an article once that I\’ll never forget.  She said that we clean out our closets from time to time to keep only the clothes that still fit, why don\’t we do that with people? No more bellbottoms for me.

    Sensory Exercise:  Go through your house and grab a few samples of different textures. Flannel, silk, burlap, a loofah – any variety will do, as long as there\’s a discernable difference. Now the fun part:  Rub your cheek against each of them. This is a reminder of how it feels to be with people who bring you comfort and people who don\’t. Remember this every time you feel the obligatory pull to spend time with people who bring you down.

    “My lover doesn\’t understand me.” 

    Yea, so? But you do right? I can\’t tell you how many years I spent crying over guys who made my heart ache. Finally I realized that I was the only one I could count on to make myself happy. You\’ve heard it a million times, but it\’s true. Take some time to understand the kinds of things you tend to lean on for comfort and then make sure you do them. Often! One of the first things I realized I use for nurturing myself is a long, hot bath. There\’s just something about taking care of yourself that makes you come out feeling like “I\’m okay.” Another way to take care of your self is to go see a movie, alone. Indulge your mood, at the time when you want to go, with the movie that you want to see. Once you do it, you\’ll never miss another movie you want to see again. Whatever you end up learning that you need for comfort, the best part is that hopefully, you\’ll realize that you are a kind of like a Swiss Army knife – everything you need is tucked away, ready to pull out when you need it.

    Journal Exercise: List the things that make you feel comforted. Start with foods, clothing, songs, and activities. Push yourself to remember a scene in a movie or a poem or even a scent that makes you feel good. Favorite road to drive on? Favorite coffee cup? Chair? Think about why these things have that affect on you. Then, luxuriate in any of them that you have easily at your disposal. While you\’re at it, why not incorporate the others into your life on a more regular basis?

              There are as many happiness triggers for you to implement as there are obstacles to your joy. You simply need to become aware of when you need them and what they are.

              You\’ll make it, I\’ll make. Moment by moment, day by day, we\’ll all make our way through what life throws at us. But I want to do better than that, don\’t you? I want to bounce giddily down that road; laughing, loving and not letting life\’s obstacles get me down. Today\’s a great place so start, don\’t you think? After all it\’s not a mood, it\’s your life.