I remember the days when my boys were young and the amazement they often wore on their faces. Simple acts create shared pleasure.
A number of years ago, my youngest son asked me to please take him to McDonald’s to buy him a smoothie, just as we began to drive home in the opposite direction. I replied to him in a quick and assertive tone, “I need to get home and get back to work; I’ve got some tight deadlines I have to meet.”
As I looked over on my son’s face, I saw a sad and disappointed look which made my heart ache. He is such a sweet and amazing boy, and if that reason I spit out was true, wow, it is pretty bad if I can’t take three minutes out of my life to buy my son a cool, refreshing beverage. As I entered the round-about, I quickly decided to do a full loop and head back toward the restaurant. He asked, “Mom, where are we going?” I replied with a smile, “to McDonald’s of course.” “You are the best!” he replied. I am always astonished at how big parents are in the eyes of their children and how such small random acts of kindness are truly appreciated.
The interesting thing is that an amazing feeling came over me when I shared where we were going after departing from the circular intersection. My son was certainly happy, but I was elated. Joy is one of those emotions that definitely goes both ways…from sender to receiver and receiver to sender, all in a matter of seconds. That small gesture not only created a moment of shared delight, but it also helped alter my mindset and got me out of my short-term funk.
So how do we live our lives infused with more habits of happiness and less ruts of negativity?
I have found that we all have times in our life where things go wrong, where they don’t go as we had obviously planned, and they may even lead us down a horrible, unwanted path. But those of us who choose to be positive and look at life from an optimistic lens, make conscious choices about how we respond to situations, rather than automatically reacting to the circumstances before us.
I have a saying that I am known for: “I don’t have bad days; I may have unfortunate moments through a day, but not everything that happened to me during a particular day was bad.” I continually challenge myself to consider one, two or even three things that occurred that were good on a day that was unusually physically tough, emotionally draining, or just simply difficult to handle. This happiness habit, as I refer to it, is one that I choose to follow and live by daily.
I believe that we each have the power to control our reactions, attitudes and intentions. But if we see ourselves as victims of circumstances or events, it is probably impossible to stay positive, even with our strongest intent. Don’t give into the victim mentality. You are worth more than that. You deserve as much happiness as anyone else. But just because you deserve it, doesn’t mean you will automatically get it. As with anything that is worth having, happiness is a habit that takes conscious thought and steadfast self-discipline. Simply put…work hard at it and you are more likely to reap the rewards. After all, I would choose a life filled with passion, purpose and positive people over one that is depressing, pessimistic, and consumed with negative naysayers, every single moment of every single day. My hunch is that all of us would.
Life is short. Enjoy the simple pleasures all around us and within each of us. Relish the feeling of the warm sun on your skin and the cool gentle breeze through your hair. Offer a hand to someone unexpectedly, even if it means five minutes out of your day. Surprise someone special with a tasty treat, and adore the large grin you see from ear to ear.
Choose to spread happiness, as if it were a contagious habit.