Over a year ago, I bought this e-book called Better Each Day by Jessica Cassity. It’s a compilation of 365 best practices for living a happy life. I had completely forgotten about it until a few weeks ago when I was cleaning out my e-library. I decided then that my impending birthday would be a great day to start reading it. That day dawned today. I made a mental note to crack it open tonight.
In the meantime, though, I had a great, great day. I didn’t do anything flashy or extravagant. I just spent time with my family. Every year I love going to Barrel Oak winery on my birthday. I love it because they are dog friendly, so I can truly spend my special day with my whole family. Ryan had packed a picnic. Roo made friends with the house Labrador. Koa sat staring at the puppies and playing with her toys and Ryan and I sipped wine, all while overlooking the gorgeous Blue Ridge mountains. As I sat there, looking at my family and the rest of my surroundings I just felt overwhelmed by how fortunate I felt.
At times like this I frequently wonder, am i grateful because of the life i lead or does my life just feel blessed because I find reasons to be grateful? Which is the cause and which is the effect?
Fast forward to this evening, I remembered that I wanted to start reading Better Each Day. I read the first lesson and it, eerily, addressed the very same issue I had been pondering all day.
How do you become the master of your own happiness? What would make you happy? Have you ever said, I would be happy if only ________? Have you just waited for that thing, that silver bullet, to come along to magically make you content with your life? I know there have been periods of time when I have hoped and wished for that silver bullet to solve my discontent. It never came.
Cassity’s book goes on to reference another book, The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want, by Sonja Lyubomirsky. It describes a situation in which only 10% of a persons happiness can be attributed to their circumstances in life, 50% is caused by their genetic proclivity and 40% is impacted by their individual actions and responsiveness to their surroundings.
Forty percent is a lot. So, to answer my musings from earlier, it is likely that I feel happy because I honed an individual ability to look for things to be grateful for. I’ll share with you, this hasn’t always been the case. For many years I struggled with an underlying feeling of depression. For a few years I actually took medication for it. I thought, at the time, that it would be something I would always need medication for. I was wrong. It’s been several years since I have taken pills to help my mood. So, I am left to ponder, what has changed?
Cassity suggests that you make a list of activities that give you energy and make you feel positive and turn to them when you are feeling down. I would take that suggestion a step further. Each activity that you partake in impacts your mood, either positive or negative. Look for patterns. Some things make us feel really good. Maybe for you it’s volunteerism, running or spending time decluttering your home.
On the other side of the coin, some things make us feel drained and regretful. Maybe it’s spending too much time attached to your technology or dealing with particular group that is no longer fulfilling. People are the same way. Some energize you. Some are energy suckers.
Make a list of these people and activities. One column should read, “I feel energized and good about myself when I………..”. Just write. See what comes out of you. You might be surprised. Then, do the opposite. “I feel bad about myself when I……”. From there it’s simple. Do more of the former and less of the latter.
What is simple, though, it not necessarily what is easy. This will take some time. It might take some heartache and pain to start eliminating your energy suckers. It might take some deep soul-searching. I know it has for me. It is an ongoing process. I will never be done.
I write this all as a reminder to myself to do this same thing. I have thought of these energy suckers and givers before, but I have never made a formal list. Never was there a better time for us to start. Together.
So, as I sit here thinking about this I am questioning, what has changed? Why did I once think I was destined to be tied to antidepressants, but now I have no problem weathering the ups and downs and feeling gratitude. For me, I think the correlation is triathlon. Triathlon has given me a way to channel my energy into something positive. It truly has changed the way I think of myself and my world. I am fortunate to have found it.
Your energy giver might not be triathlon, but whatever it is, spend time and energy finding it. Make your lists. Do more of the stuff that makes you feel truly good about yourself and less of the bad. Surround yourself with people who enable you to be happy.
Let go of your energy suckers. This doesn’t make you a quitter. It just means that you are well on your way to being a healthier, happier, more genuine you.