Spiritual Baby Steps

"Doing" spirituality in the real world

Just do it… really?

I’ve been thinking about how to be happy lately. Can you just decide to “do it?” To be happy… regardless of what comes your way. To choose it. Do you have to pretend? Do you physically do and the emotion follows? How does it work, exactly?

The other day I was leaving work. I’d had a rough day for various reasons… I had to drive that day (rare for me), so I got on the freeway and was immediately stuck in bumper to bumper traffic. A song came on the radio that brought up emotions for me and I started to cry. I decided to call home and get a little happiness infusion into my day. My husband answered, and I knew immediately I had looked in the wrong place. He was cranky and dealing with cranky kids and in no mood to be cheering me up.

I started to get really down. Then I caught myself. Why am I allowing myself to get caught up in all these negative thoughts? Well… I thought… because I’m not sure how to stop it. But then I realized, upon further reflection, that yes, indeed, I did know… I just wasn’t in the habit of doing it. So… I went ahead and tried it. My first thought was to try the acceptance work I’d done in 2010. So I went with that. I repeated to myself… paying very close attention to my feelings at the time… I accept that I’m feeling (sad) and that’s ok… I accept that I’m feeling (helpless) and that’s ok… I accept that I’m feeling (discouraged) and that’s ok… {this is a technique I learned from Doreen Banaszak (http://www.doreenbanaszak.com/) – check out her site)}. Anyway, I won’t say that by the time I got home everything was perfect and magical, but I will say this… I was in a much better mood and I know that it affected how I walked in the door and the course of the evening!

Flash forward to this morning… My daughter was throwing a fit because she wanted to go get hot chocolate before school. We didn’t have enough time to do so…. plus I had no intention of rewarding the crabby attitude… and that resulted in a very rough morning. I was driving the kids to school… with lots of attitude and crankiness from the back seat… and I thought to myself… how do people switch the mood once their in it? How do I turn this around? Can I turn this around… or is it too late for that? I tried the acceptance thing again… I accept that I’m feeling (irritated) and that’s ok… I accept that I’m feeling (disrespected) and that’s ok… I accept that I’m feeling (frustrated) and that’s ok. I dropped the kids off and moved on with my day. I’m not sure how they felt… but amazingly enough, I felt better.

Flash forward to tonight. (Did I mention it’s been a tough week?) My husband and son are off to hockey practice. My daughter and I are home… she’s in a mood because she wants to get Jamba and I said no (are you seeing a theme here?)… I’m dealing with the crabby attitude, talking back and demanding Jamba. I’m feeling lots of irritation and frustration… and a general lack of knowing how to handle this parenthood gig! I take a moment to assess my situation and all the many things I’ve read and learned over the years. So far, I’ve managed to remain calm, but definitely do not feel in-control or in any way in charge of the situation. I’m realizing that my daughter is completely controlling my world right now… and I’m totally letting her!

At that point, I thought of a comment that my husband had made earlier in the week. He said something to the effect of… things are good and I’m happy… because I decided. That caught me off guard… I’m usually the one making those kind of statements. But it reminded me in this moment… and I made a similar decision. My daughter is not responsible for how I feel… that’s my responsibility. I decided that in that moment, regardless of what kind of mood she was in, and how she was acting toward me… I could decide to be happy. I had to actually stop and think for a moment… If I was happy right now, what would I be doing? (and, yes, I had to ask myself this because in that moment I was not feeling happy and I was not acting happy and getting to happy seemed like a really big leap).

I realized that if I was happy right now, I would be listening to music as I made dinner. Enjoying the luxury of time to make a good dinner, which I rarely have on any other night than Monday due to my work schedule. I grabbed my iPhone and turned on Pandora. The beauty of the situation, which I had not planned on nor anticipated, was that my daughter’s mood totally shifted. As I began to choose happiness for myself, she “came around” so to speak. She dropped the attitude and softened her resolve. It probably helped that I chose to play music that she liked, but the reality is, it was really good for both of us.

The remainder of the night turned out well. Did my tactics work or was it coincidence? You can believe what you will… but I’ve had too many opportunities to practice these tactics to believe that it is only chance. The trick is being able to catch yourself in the moment and consciously decide to do something different. It’s very easy to follow the status quo and wonder why things always turn out the same (disappointing) way!

This week, try catching yourself in those moments of frustration… notice your feelings and take a moment to acknowledge and accept them.. and then decide… yes, it sounds simplistic… but just try it… to choose happiness. What would it feel like if you were happy right then? What would you be doing if you were happy in this moment? What would you be experiencing from others?

As Nike would say… just do it! There’s a lot to be said for that simple tactic… and yet, so often we make things so much more complicated than that. Cause… aren’t they? Wait… yeah… they are! Or is it just what we tell ourselves when we’re feeling overwhelmed? I know it’s what I tell myself when I feel overwhelmed! Is it possible to simply change your mindset… your state-of-being… in the blink of an eye?

Here’s what I’ve found… becoming aware of my feelings is the first step. Not as easy as it seems. At first when I started trying to be aware of my feelings, it usually happened after the fact. Like later… when I was feeling guilty about my poor reaction or over reaction to the situation. The next step is deciding to consciously change the pattern. I’ve mentioned a couple of my own tactics above… becoming aware of the feelings that are coming up, accepting that I am having these feelings… and acknowledging that it’s “ok.” Another tactic is to choose happiness in that moment… asking myself what it would look like, feel like… what I’d be doing in that moment if, in fact, I were happy right then. Then do it! And the final step… repeat… repeat… repeat!

What strategies do you use to get happy? Does it take an army… or is it something you can do for yourself in any moment? Is it an inside job for you, or do you rely on others to decide your mood for you? I’ve shared some tactics that I use… but as is the case with so many things in life, I believe that there are as many “right” answers as there are people. Share your best moves. I’d like to try them myself!


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2 thoughts on “Just do it… really?

  1. Marjorie Johnson on said:

    1st Thessalonians 5:16 Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you inChrist Jesus. Love You, Gram. 2nd Corinthians 10:3-5 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demoslish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

  2. Shelley on said:

    Music,a nice cup of tea, playing with or walking my dog, taking the time to do something creative (my jewelry, gardening, knitting etc.), reading something I haven’t been able to get to, making some phone calls to people I care about,~~~~those are all things that give me pleasure and make me happy. Some of them are quite easy to access at any moment, some others take some planning, but I use them all. Great blog today, as usual. I love that you’re always forcing us to step back and take a look at how we are “taking in” life. XO Mama

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