Recently I’ve been trying to help my daughter through a particularly low patch in her life. A freshman at college, she’s felt depressed and lonely. We’ve had many conversations during which I had to listen to her muffled words as she cried and blew her nose.
As my heart broke and I tried to hold back my own tears, I offered her as many words of wisdom as I could find. I shared with her every technique I’d ever learned that would help her find happiness in her situation.
Each time when I hung up the phone, I cried. I cried for her–a mother whose heart and soul yearned to make things better for her daughter, who felt her pain and wanted to make heal it. And I cried for myself.
Her unhappiness made me acutely aware of my own. On so many levels I knew I was not happy.
I needed to take my own advice.
Yet, my advice had not worked for my daughter–at least not well enough. Some of the tricks and tools had helped, but it took talking to her old therapist by phone for her to hear words that made sense to her.
I had to decide what would work for me. Just like my daughter, sometimes we can’t leave our situation to make ourselves happy. In fact, sometimes our baggage comes along with us. As I’ve heard it said, “Everywhere I go, there I am.” We can’t get away from ourselves.
We have to find a way to make ourselves feel happy. Rebbe Nachman of Breslov would advise us to fake it ’till we make it. To smile, sing, dance, act silly. He knew this would help long before psychiatrists realized that a simple smile could actually make us feel better–truly changing the chemical workings in our bodies so we would, indeed, feel happier.
Last night I sat around a campfire with a bunch of writers creating silly stories. Each person had to add one line. I couldn’t even say my line I was laughing so hard. It felt good. I felt happy.
We tend to focus on our unhappiness. That just makes us more unhappy. Instead, focus on what makes you happy.
What do you do to make yourself feel happy? What CAN you do to make yourself feel happy? What can you focus on that will make you happy?
My daughter realized that in the moment of feeling bad she could stop and remember a moment when she felt really good–good about herself and independent of anyone else. That made her feel better…happier…if not totally happy. But it’s a step in the right direction.
What step can you take today to make yourself feel happier? Take that step today.Focus on something that makes you happy.