How to be happy–in the middle of your mess–is the main question we’re all desperately trying to find an answer for.
How can we find happiness even if we’re busy, stressed out, tired, or a little lonely?
Yesterday I was talking about how your husband can’t make you happy–because he can’t fix everything, and he can’t feel all your angst to the same extent you do. Ultimately our own happiness comes not from other people, but from joy and contentment first (finding peace with God and with ourselves), and then we’ll find peace with our circumstances.
But how, practically, do you do that?
I had some pushback yesterday saying, “but my husband is supposed to be there when I’m hurt! He’s supposed to be helping with the kids and relieving my burdens!” To which I’d say, “absolutely!”
And in my book, 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, I talk about both sides. I start with four thoughts that will help us get our own hearts in the right place; three ideas that will change the way you look at resolving conflict and bringing up issues when your husband ISN’T supporting you; and two thoughts for keeping close.
But I find that often when we’re unhappy we’re so quick to point the finger.
And I think it’s better to really look at our own hearts first. I’m not saying your husband is perfect; on the contrary, I spent all last week talking about what to do if he isn’t! But I am saying that too often we think he’s the sole source of the problem when we play a role too.
And so today I’d like to share the ways that I’ve found to take responsibility for my own happiness.
Too often I think we over-spiritualize this, making it sound as if happiness is there if we’d all just spend four hours a day in prayer and ignore everything else.
That’s not real life–and quite frankly Jesus enjoyed a lot of things other than prayer. Prayer is wonderful, but overspiritualizing problems doesn’t really help most of us. So I want to get practical today!
Usually on Top 10 Tuesday I give you ten ideas, and I tell you to pick 1-3 to actually put into practice (since no one can do all 10!) Today’s a little different. I’m not telling you to pick any of them; I want to use myself as an example, and then encourage you to brainstorm about what ideas will do the same thing for you. I’ll tell you what brings me peace and joy, but since we’re different, the same things may not work for you. But the concepts will.
How To Be Happy Tips: Big Picture
1. Pick Just ONE Bible Verse
I got this concept from Courtney Joseph, who is doing a wonderful job at Women Living Well with her Good Morning Girls series!
I know that we’re constantly told to read our Bibles, and to pray, but for many of us that’s a hard slog. And we can’t do it in the morning. And the more people say, “read your Bible!”, the more inadequate we feel.
Here’s what I do: my husband and I spend 7-9 p.m. together, walking, talking, watching a Netflix show, playing a game. But at 9 I get out my Bible, a nonfiction book I’m reading, and my journal, and I read and write for an hour. I use a devotional to tell me what to read in the Bible everyday.
Then I look for just ONE verse–just one–that really speaks to me from the reading. I write that on a piece of paper, and all the next day I look at it and memorize it and think about it. It helps me focus my thoughts.
Here’s one God gave me on Sunday, when I was struggling with what prayer means:
When we pick a verse, we know that God is speaking to us. That our devotions are interactive. It’s not just you reading; God is speaking too!
You want peace and joy, but don’t compare your spiritual life with other people’s spiritual lives. I’ve tried for years to read my Bible in the morning. I’ve tried the “reading the Bible in 90 days”. It doesn’t work for me. I’d read but not take it in.
Do what works for you. And if all you can take away is one verse–that’s enough! I find if I pray and think about one verse each day, I have an ongoing conversation with God. And it really brings joy!
2. Know My ONE Big Thing for the Year
I know my one big thing that I’m working towards for my business this year, and for my personal life this year. Personally, it’s getting my house cleaned out so my mom can move in. Businesswise, it’s getting some more ebooks written and creating a plan for them.
I know those are my ONE things (well, technically it’s two, but I have two parts of my life).
I take a yearly retreat and pray over these ONE things. And it really does help!
So everyday I do 10 minutes towards my ONE thing. That’s it. Just 10 minutes. And then I can track my progress. When I know that I’m working towards a goal and I’m being purposeful, I tend to feel more positively, like I’m moving towards something God has called me to.
3. Know My ONE Big Thing for the Day
Here’s something else: I know my one thing that I need to get done in the day. The one thing that must be checked off my list. Everything else can fall away, but I need that one thing done.
Today it’s getting a video edited that I hope will go up tomorrow.
But that way, at the end of the day, I’ll have something to point to.
If we start the day knowing our one thing for the day, and our big picture goal we’re working towards, we’re going to end the day feeling like we’ve accomplished something.
And for me personally, I usually feel the least happy when I feel as if I’ve gotten nothing done. When we get frazzled, it’s usually because our day has gotten away from us. We had some things planned, but we didn’t do them. We relaxed in front of Facebook instead, or we responded to every kid’s cry instead of trying to plan something proactive to stop those cries. And then by the afternoon we’ve had nothing done, everyone’s grumpy, and we feel like failures.
If you want to be happy, don’t let life get away from you! Know your ONE thing, and do it!
4. Pick ONE Friend
Here’s a new one I’m starting as an empty nester: every week I’m getting together with one friend for lunch. It won’t always be the same friend (in fact, I hope it’s not!) But I need more women in my life. I spend so much time in front of my computer and talking to my girls and my husband that I can get a little lonely and narrow focused. Friendships help us to step outside of ourselves.
This Saturday I’m having lunch with a friend I’ve known since university and we’re going to commiserate about our girls together. It will be great!
Every week, I know who I’m going to get together with and when. It helps me to know I’m not in this alone.
If you have little kids and you can’t do lunch, can you get together with someone for coffee? Or can you plan a one hour phone conversation with a different friend each week?
5. Get Dressed
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s not. I don’t mean yoga pants and a baggy T-shirt. I mean get dressed in something that flatters you. Put on earrings (unless you have toddlers that yank!), and put on some lipstick.
I always feel so much better if I look better. It makes me feel more confident, less like a slouch, more like “I am made for a purpose and I’m going to do battle in the world today!” Yay!
How to Be Happy Tips: Stop and Enjoy
Now we’ve got the big picture things. The next five steps are just small things–tiny things that I add to my life that make me joyful. They’re not big. They’re not elaborate. But they make me happy, because they celebrate the beauty God gave us.
6. Sip Some Herbal Tea
I gave up Diet Pepsi a year ago, and that was tough, because I loved it. So I had to replace it with something. And that something has been tea. I do hot tea and iced tea. White tea and green tea. Black tea and herbal tea. I have so many teas to choose from! I take my tea supply with me when I travel.
It helps me to feel as if I’m enjoying all different tastes, without chemicals. And it’s lovely.
7. Infuse the House with Essential Oils
God gave us five senses, but how often do we indulge them? I love filling my aromatherapy infuser with essential oils both for the scent and for the healing properties. Right now I have a headache blend going–I was feeling a little bit achy today–but it’s so lovely with peppermint and rosemary and juniper.
Ever notice how much of the Song of Solomon has to do with different senses? Let’s use them!
And right now the Herbs and Essential Oils Super Bundle is for sale–but only until June 27, 2016! It’s everything you’ve ever wanted to know about how to use essential oils in your daily life to lift your mood, your immunity–even your libido!
Learn more here! And get it before it’s gone!
8. Reserve Time to Cook
I used to go through my day not knowing what I was going to make for dinner. Life was too hectic, and I didn’t deal with things until I had to.
Then one day, about eight years ago, I made a startling discovery. I actually LIKE cooking. It smells luscious. It’s amazing that you can take vegetables and meat and broth and turn it into something that looks so lovely and tastes so lovely. It’s using God’s raw ingredients to create–so cool!
So now dinner prep is MY time. When the girls were little they had that time off to play or do whatever they wanted–as long as they left me alone. And it’s still my favourite part of the day. I plan what I’ll make the night before and get all things out of the freezer, but then I cook. And I relax. And I’m happy.
9. Go For a Walk
When my girls were little and driving me crazy, I had one go-to method that calmed us all down: I’d stick them in a stroller and head outside, even if it was freezing and snowing.
Getting out of the house always worked its magic.
I love fresh air. I love seeing my neighbours. I love time to breathe.
These days, whenever I’m frustrated with some writing, or I can’t think of what to say next, or I’m stuck with emails, I knock on Katie’s door (she’ll be gone in two weeks! Yikes!) and I say, “let’s go for a walk.” She hardly ever says no.
If my husband’s home, I take him, too.
And if no one’s home, I go by myself.
I pray. I think. I breathe.
And then I come home.
10. Just Feel
I take time everyday just to FEEL–in the physical sense. Whether it’s some stretching, or asking my husband to give me a massage (or treating myself to a professional one occasionally), or going for a jog, I try to feel.
We live our lives almost entirely in our heads, and I think that’s what often gets the dissatisfaction going. If we can take time everyday to STOP and ENJOY, it makes a difference.
So feel–stretch, exercise, massage. Breathe. Smell. Drink. Revel in the wonderful things that God has made. Give yourself a minute to enjoy something beautiful. And then continue to work on your big picture things that give you purpose.
Those are my ten things. Yours may be different. You may include listening to music (I find I’m loving silence more and more), or digging something in the garden, or sketching something.
But notice what isn’t on the list: Netflix. Computer games. Facebook. Do I do these things? Yes, I do. But I know they don’t make me happy. If I fill my life with those I will feel chronically dissatisfied. That’s not to say we CAN’T do them. But if you want to be happy, you’ve got to find ways to seek out God’s purpose, fulfill that purpose, and revel and enjoy what He has made.
Creativity is one of the ways we’re made in the image of God–and too often we squeeze creativity out of our lives.
As I said yesterday, your happiness is a gift you can give your husband.
When we are happy and at peace, he doesn’t have to solve anything. He can take a deep breath, relax, and revel in being at home. So if there are things that you can do to find that joy and contentment, you’ll also find your happiness. And that will boost your marriage tremendously!
Let me know in the comments: What makes you happy? What small things can you do to bring joy into your life?