A couple of weeks ago, I started feeling like the corners of my mouth were perpetually pulled down. It’s true that the fall has been tough, but I’m not a frowning person. But there I was, catching myself in a frown on a regular basis. The funny thing about a frown is that it made me feel unhappy. And the more I felt unhappy, the more I frowned. It was becoming a vicious circle. So I tried to smile more. But then I ran the risk of looking like a grinning idiot.
Last summer I bought “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin and put it in my books-to-read drawer. About the time I realized that I was frowning, I happened to be between books for my book club and pulled it out of the drawer. It was just what I needed. Gretchen has done a great deal of very interesting research about what affects happiness. She then came up with 12 themes and tackled one each month with a handful of resolutions. I needed to do more about that frown than just attempt to remind myself to have a pleasant expression, although that did help. I decided that would be my new project.
I am not Gretchen and so my happiness themes are not the same as hers. I had a small melt-down a couple of weeks ago about something stupid. (At some point in the midst of getting upset, I will remember that I only get upset about small things that really do not matter. The fact that I am upset is a sign that I don’t need to be upset.) In the post-mortem, I realized that I was telling myself two very false things. First I was telling myself that deadlines were dangerous. And I was also telling me I didn’t have time to trust God. How silly is that! The whole not trusting God was having a serious impact on my happiness. So, for December, the theme is “Trust God.” I also made a rule that said that deadlines were not dangerous. (I’m still in the process of creating my rules. I hope to let you know what those are soon.)
Now I needed to figure out what simple changes I could make that would help me trust God more. Right then I heard on the radio that the Bible said “Do not fear” or “Be not afraid” 365 times. Coincidence? I think not. Focusing on how God was telling me not to fear seemed like a good way to start learning not to fear. So, each day I find one of those verses and write it down. I also make a point to note “small blessings” that happen each day. There are many of those that often get overlooked. I reasoned that attending to those would help me to see God’s hand at work. I also realized that I was telling myself that I “needed” to do various things. All that was doing was adding stress to my life. In fact, I had recognized that back in October and had given up to-do lists. Already that was making me calmer and I was able to do the things I really enjoyed instead of all the little musts. So, changing this thought pattern was just an extension of that. And I also realized that I sometimes feared people more than God and was sometimes doing things that weren’t best for me because I didn’t want to let someone down. So I want to tackle that as well.
I made myself a chart to keep myself on task and each evening I give myself points based on how well I’ve done on each of the four resolutions:
- Find Bible verses that tell me not to fear
- Look for small blessings
- Reframe “I need” thoughts
- Please God instead of people
So how am I doing? Pretty well, thank you for asking. Thursday I even told someone I was going home to pay bills and be thankful I had the money to do so. How’s that for a reframe?