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Thursday
Dec092010

The Now of Happiness

In the last several months, I’ve been reading a lot on the subject of happiness. Between Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project, Dr. Martin Seligman’s book, Authentic Happiness, and the recent Real Simple magazine issue, which featured happiness articles, this topic has occupied my thoughts more than usual.

Happiness comes in many forms. Finding joy in the present as opposed to wishing for the future or the past is one avenue for happiness. I’ve been a working mom from the time our girls were young. The pull between raising a family and juggling work has always existed for me.  What helped me negotiate that challenge was learning to be present wherever I was. When I was with our girls, I was with them 100%. When I was working, I focused on that completely. In addition, I looked for small moments of joy along the way.

On my “Mommy days,” I often had to run errands and play catch-up. The girls always went with me. I treated our outings as opportunities for fun, adventure and bonding. If we were driving along and saw something beautiful or heard something funny, we noticed it together. We’d sing in the car, dance in the supermarket aisles and laugh at silly sights. It made car rides fun, shopping less mundane and helped us find the fun in very simple things. We allowed ourselves happiness breaks.

Now our girls are both in college. They are happy and working very hard. The fall semester is almost over. Our oldest daughter is feeling the time crunch for completing her projects. Sleep is something she’s not getting enough of these days because there’s so much to do. She commented to me that while she normally lives in the present and enjoys each day, right now she’s feeling a little guilty that she’s wishing the semester to be over.

I’ve experienced times that were more intense than others. There were years when my sleep was uninterrupted by the girls waking me up in the night. During those years, even with the lack of sleep and many demands on my time, I knew that it was temporary. In the blink of an eye, the girls would be all grown-up and self-sufficient. Free time would be something I’d have more of, eventually. I also knew that as challenging as it was, I wanted to enjoy the time, sleep deprived and all, because when it was gone, I’d miss those special years.

Happiness involves finding joy in the little things. Even when life is chaotic, the kids aren’t sleeping, work deadlines are looming and you don’t seem to have any time for yourself, there are small ways to find happy moments. Things like that first sip of morning coffee, hearing your favorite DJ on the radio, seeing gorgeous colors, laughing with your kids, slipping into your warm, cozy bed after a long day. . . these are all causes for mini-celebrations or opportunities to be grateful. It won’t matter that you have challenges if you can find small windows nestled in the chaos to stop and appreciate what’s right in front of you. Happiness options are bountiful if you allow yourself to enjoy them.

What makes you happy?

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