Monday, August 5, 2013

The Happiness Project

I recently started to read "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin.

Three chapters in and I'd encourage this book to anyone!

It's no secret that a happy life is a better life.  But what is it that truly makes us happy?  What is the secret sauce?

Even Gretchen does not fully come to an answer.  She has suggestions on how to become happier but at the end of the day, there is no secret to being happy.  You just have to be it.

Sounds easy enough right?  "I will be happy tomorrow" you think to yourself as you fall asleep.  Then you wake up late, spill your coffee all over your white shirt and and feel like happiness can wait till tomorrow.

As I'm reading this book I started thinking about my own life, my own happiness.  I realized that I am at a happier state now than I was before I got sick.  How can that be when life as a MS sparkler mostly stinks?  How can I be happier now with my dreams smashed than before when my dreams were within reach?

There are two main factors that help in reaching a better happiness level:
1. Positive thinking 
2. Making others happy

Positive thinking can be difficult.  It seems so much easier to look at all the dark in life instead of all the light.  But as you train your mind to focus on the positive, it will become easier and happiness will shine throughout.  

I recently read that people who get botox are a percentage happier than those who do not because, based on this study, it's harder to frown.  Thus, they continually express happiness through facial expressions and then internally, fulfill that higher happiness. 

I'm not suggesting we all go out and get botox.  But its a rather interesting point: that if you are happy on the outside, enthusiasm will grow on the inside. 

Its not easy for me to contiunally think happy thoughts as I enter the real world.  I often find myself getting caught up with the stares and the faces people have when they see me.  In order to test this theory, I've been leaving the house with an extra accessory: a smile.  What I've discovered is that when I have a smile on my face, the looks diminish, for people see that I'm just a person, same as they are.  Plus, if I can still smile though I have a disability, it puts others at an ease; they too smile back instead of staring with questions and concern.

The second factor I've discovered is a huge direct link to one's happiness level.

Prior to becoming sick, I was very selfish.  I choose my "happiness" over others; I thought I'd be happier by having a big job so I would work on the weekends instead of hanging out with friends.  I'd spend the weekends decorating my apartment instead of visiting my long distance boyfriend. Instead of lunching with co-workers, I'd hurry to the stores to do some shopping to stay up with the latest trends.

But at the end of the day, I wasnt fully happy.  I was stressed, over-worked, tired, lonely, and found it harder to put a smile on my face. 

When diagnosed with MS, those selfish tendicies I had were taken away from me against my will.  Now I'm on disability, I live with my parents and my budget is a little more tight when it comes to fashion.  However I have more time for others.  And my happiness level has gone through the roof.

My schedule is flexible, meaning I can work around others.  I have time to sit and listen to other people's stories.  I am more aware of people around me's feelings and can help out accordingly. 

Im not saying that I am now completely selfless.  Rather, that by spending more time thinking about other people's happiness, I have grown in my own.  And being surrounded by happy people makes it easier to have positive and happy thoughts.  It's a beautiful cycle.

I had to learn the hard way how to achieve a higher level of happiness.  I had to lose a lot to get to this point.  And I am only part way there; there's always continuous ways to grow.  

I am thankful though to have made these discoveries.  MS sucks, no doubt about it.  But as I learn to grow and accept it, I see the beautiful returns that have been given due to the suffering.  I think of these returns as little roses from heaven.  The path is thorny and hurts but at the end you receive one of the most stunning gifts.  

To happy days!!