On Self Help Daily and TMFC, I have “Subject Request” forms because I don’t want to research and write about what interests ME – I want to write about what interests YOU.
A popular request is for information or tips on how to be happy. A recent request came from a lady who included the paragraph you’ll find below (I asked if I could use it because I know others will recognize themselves, in varying degrees, in her words. I changed a few details – such as the states.)
It seems like I have forgotten how to be happy. I should say first off that I am not in menopause and Idon’t have empty nest syndrome. I am happily married. I am in my early 30s and have 2 sons ages 8 and 13. They do well in school. We have 2 cats that are my “girls” – they keep me company when all of my guys are away. In fact, sometimes I prefer their company to the three loud boys! My husband and I both work and we make a decent living. Some have more money than us, but most probably have less. Money just isn’t an issue. We get what we can, we do without what we can’t.
I don’t have family problems, health problems, or money problems. Shouldn’t I be happy? But I am not. I cry a lot. My husband wants to go places and I don’t want to go. He wants to go to the movies each week, but I don’t want to.
Here is my problem. When I think of my dream life, this is not it. I want to live back up north again. I am from Minnesota and loved it there . About 4 years ago, we moved to southern Texas because of my husband’s job and we have lived here ever since. And I just hate the heat. I miss the snow and cold wind. I miss my sweaters and coats.
I always picture all of us living in a cabin in northern Minnesota, on a lake. I dream of sitting by a fireplace. And I dream of being happy again. I feel mad and cheated that I can’t be happy. My sons and husband love it here because they get out and play baseball and soccer all the time. My husband coaches them. I don’t even go to games because it’s so hot. Then I get mad at them for going and for being happy.
I am tired of crying and tired of being b!tchy. I have forgotten how to not be this way. Please help me, I am miserable. – Miserable in Texas
A lot of times, I’ll read article requests or e-mails from people that will seem so heartfelt and riddled with pain that they make ME want to cry. This particular letter certainly got to me. While reading the note, I was already feeling horrible, but when I got to the part where she says, “I have forgotten how to not be this way. Please help me, I am miserable.” – my heart broke.
Miserable in Texas (not the actual state, by the way) is making the same mistake that a lot of people make: Theyspend so much time looking at how they wish things were (their dream life) that they develop a grudge against the way things are (their reality). Sadly, they often develop a grudge against the person they hold responsible – in this case, the husband.
In many situations, visualizing a certain thing can be helpful. For example:
- When trying to lose weight, it’s a great idea to visualize how you’ll look when you lose the extra pounds.
- When painting, a lot of artists will visualize how the painting will look when it’s through.
- Many salespeople will visualize themselves making a sale before they even approach a potential client.
When you are physically working toward a goal or end result, thinking about your victory is a positive practice to get into. However, when you are “stewing” over a particular situation – thinking about the way you wish things were is something different altogether: It’s poisonous.
The only thing these poisonous thoughts do is set you up for a fall as soon as you snap back into reality. And I have to tell you, sometimes it’s an absolutely beautiful reality that your thoughts are poisoning! Such is the case with this particular lady.
If you are allowing your “dreams” to interfere with your reality, I urge you to recognize the thoughts for what they are. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with having dreams – we all have them. I have a few that I know perfectly well will never come true. Does that stop me from occasionally thinking about them? No, of course not. But I know not to dwell on them to the point that they lessen my life as it is now. I love every inch of my life – even the dusty little corners – and I would never allow anything to cast a cloud over my happy life.
“Miserable in Texas” also stated that moving back to Minnesota is completely out of the question. She said that her husband’s job is extremely secure and that, especially in this economy, both of them leaving their job would be something they wouldn’t even think about.
If the situation were different, I might advise her to start looking for ways to get her overheated self back to her sweaters and fireplace – but, as it is, my advice is to learn to love the southern sunshine! Besides, her family loves it – taking them away from a place they love could be considered selfish.
Learning to accept things you may not necessarily love is one of the most reliable routes to happiness. Being discontent and dissatisfied are stumbling blocks along the route – they’ll trip you up every single time. Being happy is as much a decision as being physically fit. You have to truly want to be happy. If you get “set” in the role of being unhappy (either as a punishment to someone you blame for your situation or simply as a habit), you will, in fact, nearly forget how to be happy. Snap yourself out of your rut! Life is too short to spend wearing a long face and driving everyone away.
First of all, look at your life and find all of the wonderful things you’ve been taking for granted. They’ll knock your socks off! If you have people you love around you, you should feel like the king or queen of the world. Smile every time you see them and never, ever take them for granted. Truly, can you imagine life without them?!
Second of all, get out there and enjoy life. Stop sitting on the sidelines thinking about how you wish this were different or how you’d be happy if only that were different… You’re wasting time and energy and, well, you’re making a perfect donkey out of yourself! If your spouse wants to go to a movie, go and buy the popcorn. If your children are playing a baseball game, don’t you dare miss a single pitch. If your beagle is chasing a squirrel, join in the fun (but, please, help the squirrel get away!)
Never get stuck in a rut of sitting around feeling sorry for yourself and thinking about how you wish things were. You owe it to yourself and to those around you to get your nose out of your fantasy world and to make the most out of your real world. If you aren’t happy and you’re making people around you unhappy, you aren’t making the most out of anything.
I don’t care what the weather is where you live – get out and live your life out loud. Walk in the rain, lay out in the sun, throw snowballs, wash your car, walk your dog, play with the water hose, and on and on.
Life is beautiful irregardless of where you live or what you’re wearing. Dress yourself up or dress yourself down. Layer on to stay warm or peel off to stay cool – but whatever you do…. suit up and enjoy the ride. The key to happiness can’t be found looking at everything you don’t have – it can only be found when you’re looking at (and loving) what you do have.
Always remember, when you hug life, it hugs you back. Every single time.
One final thought: You will always, always, always be happier if you put the happiness of other people ahead of your own. If you spend time going out of your way to bring happiness and joy to people around you, you’ll be far happier than you ever thought possible.
Make each moment count double,