Happiness

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?

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