What is Intentional Happiness? And Does it Work?
I often refer to myself as a robot. Wake up, exercise, cook, clean, parent, work, repeat…and don’t forget to smile!
Over the years, I've gotten really spectacularly good at pretending to be happy. You know, doing ‘all the things’ with a smile on my face and pep in my step because so many people (especially little people) are counting on me. When really a lot of times I don’t feel as happy as I look.
Focusing on my emotional health
Honestly, I'm pretty sick and tired of feeling sad and anxious. In the last few years, I’ve started doing some super heavy lifting in terms of internal growth and evolution of self. Wanna know why? My myopic macular degeneration diagnosis accompanied by some other difficult things life threw at me really kicked my butt.
Vision loss on top of life's challenges
And, with the constant threat of severe vision loss, I just don't want to waste any more time feeling sorry for myself. Over time I realized that not only was I losing my vision and dealing with other difficult life challenges, but my diagnoses actually just made everything feel worse than it was. This or that is happening AND I’m ‘going blind,’ great! Lucky me (insert the greatest amount of sarcasm possible).
I needed to change my life
For a short while, I felt sorry for myself and felt very ‘why me?’. And those things do NOT feel good or facilitate happiness. My macular degeneration wasn’t going anywhere and I simply refused to let anything else in my life steal the joy from my ‘seeing’ days. So, I decided to change my life. I started a few different methods of therapy. Since then, I have really learned a lot about happiness.
Learning to be happy again
Something else I realized was that I was putting more energy into feeling anxious and sad than I was putting into feeling happy. And, the happy and whimsical person that I am, deep deep down inside that has been pushed down from pain and hard things over the years, just was not going to be silenced anymore. Here’s what I learned:
Happiness is a choice
Y’all, we are in charge of our lives. If we're going to put energy into something shouldn't it be happiness? I was spending too much time feeding my difficulties and allowing those feelings to rule my life instead of focusing on the good. It may not always seem like it, but most of the time we have a choice in our experiences. We may not be able to control everything that happens to us, like a frightening medical diagnosis, but we can certainly choose how we respond to it.
Choosing intentional happiness
I just decided that I’ve spent enough time feeling sorry for myself. It's as simple as that. All that did was create a habit of feeling awful. I can’t change my life’s challenges, but I can choose to be happy despite them. I could lay in my bed and cry all day or I could get up (sometimes easier said than done) and enjoy the sunshine and fresh air on a walk...with my sunglasses on of course. If I make a habit of this, it no longer becomes as difficult and I am able to literally choose something happy one step at a time.
Intentional happiness works
This is called being intentionally happy. Or, making conscious decisions and meaningful choices to get up and go on a walk instead of crying in bed...even if you don’t want to. The first time I did this, I was surprised at the almost immediate change in my anxieties and sadness. I didn’t just go on a walk, but I also got to pet a sweet puppy and even saw a friend that I hadn’t chatted with in a long time. Plus, I got my exercise in for the day. Three happy and positive things vs. crying in bed. Just because I ‘made’ myself get up even when it felt hard.
Ways to be intentionally happy
Once I moved past forcing myself to get up and do something productive, I was able to find other ways to make sure I brought some happiness into my life each day. I sometimes have to tell myself that I am NOT going to sit here and feel like THIS today! Here are some things that are tried and true for sparking happy feelings for me and getting my mind off of the hard ‘stuff’:
- Call a friend
- Plan something to look forward to (concerts for me!)
- Send a card in the mail to brighten someone’s day
- Write it out or read inspirational books
- Walk or exercise
- Cook a nice meal
- Pamper myself (doing my nails or taking a long, hot bath)
- Cuddle my pets
- Show acts of kindness toward others
- Therapy (I love therapy)
- Count my blessings, literally
- Organize something or clean (I know, I’m kinda weird like that)
- Light candles, turn on wax burners, or put on essential oils (scent can change the mood of a day more quickly than you think!)
Things really could be worse
I know it may seem cliche but there is so much truth in this statement. Life can get really messy sometimes. But, it could always be worse. This is where intentional happiness comes in for me. If I focus on all that is going right in my world, I really have a lot of wonderful things going on! Things could be much, much worse. So, I’m intentionally choosing to be grateful that they aren’t.
Does that mean that my hard things don’t deserve a little bit of acknowledgment and care? Absolutely not. But, it does mean that they only get so much of me because when I tend to my happiness, the hard things start to follow suit and find their way there too.
Why does it matter?
Guess what y'all, we only get one life...macular degeneration or not. I don't know about you, but I don't want to spend my one life any other way but with as much joy as I can. I have no choice but to accept whatever is thrown at me and figure out how to live my best life anyway.
Macular degeneration can make your life better
Take my difficult macular degeneration diagnosis for example. If you’ve read some of my past articles you know that my life has become better in so many ways because of my diagnosis. I now truly know how precious my time is and refuse to spend it doing anything but enjoying life. My diagnosis gives me the permission I need to say no to things that hurt and yes to things that feel good. It’s that simple.
Be a transformer, not a robot
One of my dear friends asked me how I was doing recently and told her, ‘You know, roboting along.” She promptly told me that I am not a robot, I am a transformer. I really liked that. I am transforming!
I’d love to hear some other things you do to intentionally find your happiness. Let me know in the comments!
Choose happiness, be a transformer!
Do you still drive?