5 Things You Can Do to Make Your Life Happier

SMILEY - YEL,ORANGE
A strict definition of the word “happy” would lead us to the root “hap,” which means “chance or fortune.” Because of that most scholars consider that happiness is determined by the chance circumstances of life, whereas joy is something that comes from within, irrespective of circumstances. There is undoubtedly some truth in those definitions, but most people today, when they use the term “happy” are referring to “feeling good, cheerful and positive.” And that definition of “happiness” is what I’m sharing about in this post.

Most of my readers know that I am a consecrated Christian, and naturally, for me, having a relationship with Jesus Christ is the root of all my happiness. It can be for everyone who knows Him. However, there are some things that every individual — regardless of his spirituality — can do to make his life (and the lives of those around him) happy and pleasant. The following list is, by no means, exhaustive, but it offers five suggestions to perk up our everyday lives and give us a greater sense of happiness and peace. They can also make us much more pleasant to be around.

1. Decide that you really do want to be happy.

As ridiculous at it sounds, there are actually people out there who enjoy being miserable and feeling sorry for themselves. I hate to admit it, but I even tried that attitude once — for most of two years in my life. It was horrible, but, more importantly, it was stupid. No one else in my life wanted to join in my pity party, and if I insisted on talking about all the problems I faced and how sad I felt, their attention drifted off to another realm or they just got up and left.

Now, we all need encouragement once in a while, and there’s nothing wrong with letting a good, solid friend know that you’re facing a problem and would appreciate his input or prayers. But once that’s done, we need to focus on working toward the solution and not on continued effort to garner sympathy.

2. Recognize that it is no one else’s responsibility to make you happy

This strange belief that another person should meet all of our expectations and cater to our needs before anything else, so as to make us happy, is one of the primary causes of failed marriages.  Hopefully, we have a marriage partner and/or a few friends who care enough about us to want to see us happy and to want to add to that happiness. However, it is not their responsibility to do so. And once we recognize that fact — and determine to do all that we can to make our own lives happy and pleasant — we will find that we are much more free to actually enjoy the other people in our lives much better than if we’re always trying to get them to make us feel good.

3. Refuse to let circumstances dictate whether or not you are a happy person.

There’s not one human being on the face of the earth who does not face problems — major problems. No two people face exactly the same thing, and no individual faces the same degree of problems all the time. But no one goes through this life without having things happen from time to time that cause him pain or struggle or loss of some kind. And it’s true that some folks seem to get deluged with several big problems at the same time. But those problems — or the lack of them — do not make us who we are.

We must discover for ourselves who we are as a person — what do we believe, what are our standards, what level of morality do we live by, what are our goals, and what do we want to give to the rest of the world as our contribution to humanity? When we know ourselves that well, then we can face the problems staring at us and start planning how to use what we know about ourselves to either fix, overcome, or go around those problems.

And once we determine that we are not going to let the problems dictate our happiness — but rather, we are going to dictate to the problems — it becomes much easier to enlist real help from other sources. We are not crawling to those sources bemoaning our fate, but walking into their presence with confidence that shows we are ready to find solutions and move forward.

4. Smile every time you look at anyone: another human being, an animal, or yourself in the mirror.

Have you ever really looked at the people you pass on the sidewalk, or the grocery store aisle, or the gas station? Most people aren’t smiling these days. And, granted, there are a whole lot of circumstances in this world that are bad enough to rob us of our smiles. But, just as we said in suggestion # 3 above, we must not let the circumstances dictate to us. So make it a point to smile when you look at yourself in the mirror first thing in the morning, and again when you comb your hair to go out, and yet again when you brush your teeth before you go to bed (if you do). Then smile at every person you pass or come into contact with throughout the day.

Now, I admit, that for some of us, our face muscles might feel a little sore after 24 hours of smiling, but, like any other muscles, a little more exercise will get them into shape, and then there will be no pain. Medical science tells us that smiling and laughing have a definite positive effect on the physical health of our bodies — and the emotional health as well. I would go so far as to predict that if you are feeling depressed a lot lately, if you will follow this suggestion and literally smile at everyone all day for about three days, you’ll be surprised at how much better and brighter you feel at the end of that time.

Not only that, but smiles open the doors to conversations, and many times the simplest initial conversation between two people has resulted in their finding so much in common that they eventually became good friends. Moreover, smiling can open the door to encourage people to ask for directions or suggestions if they are traveling or shopping, and helping someone else is one of the best prescriptions for dissolving away depression.

5. Give yourself time and opportunity to do some things that give you real pleasure and peace.

Even if you’re situation is such that you can find only 10 minute segments of time, try to plan for those periods of time and deliberately use them for activities that add to your feeling of happiness. Caregivers and mothers with several children are especially prone to avoid planning time for themselves. I’ve been in that situation myself, and it is difficult to make ourselves plan something entertaining or fun or just restful when the people we’re caring for are so needy. But, in truth, we can give much more to those we care about if we take time for receiving what we need to keep us strong and positive as well.

Some days it may just be taking a catnap. Other times it may be reading for a few minutes. Of course, ideally, having a few hours at a time, will be especially beneficial, but even 10 or 20 minutes of reading something that  you truly enjoy will refresh you and give you a fresh attitude. Maybe your choice is listening to music, or watching  a favorite TV program. Maybe it’s a trip to the lake or the park to just sit and soak up nature. Maybe it’s having lunch with a friend, going shopping for an afternoon, or working with your favorite tools in your garage or workshop.

But make a decision to put real effort into giving yourself the gift of enjoyment. Do whatever it takes to secure those experiences for yourself and then enjoy them to the full. Don’t feel the least bit guilty. When that period of time is over, go ahead and start planning for the next time.

So do you want to be happier?

Putting these suggestions into practice can go a long way to getting there. I honestly believe happiness — the state of feeling good, cheerful, and positive — truly can be a choice. I hope the suggestions I’ve shared here will help a few of my readers to put more effort into making the choice to be happy every day for the rest of their lives. I’m going to be working harder at it myself.

 

 

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Now My Heart Must Sing

I’ve been going through some troubling situations lately and found myself feeling pretty low as a result. But in a time of prayer this morning, the Lord graciously reminded me of a poem He had given me almost two years ago. That poem was the record of another time in my life – many, many years ago – when things seemed very hard and very dark. But at that time, through means of a dream, the Lord showed me that I had nothing to worry about, and that He had worked everything out for me. So this morning, after being reminded of that poem, I sat down and read it again. It encouraged and cheered me so much that I decided perhaps I should share it on here again in case a few of my readers could use that same kind of encouragement today.

WILLOW TREE - credits

NOW MY HEART MUST SING

 

I woke to face another day,
No glad expectancy,
For heavy disappointments were all
Weighing down on me.

The day before had been so filled
With unsupportive words,
With problems piled four levels high
and everywhere closed doors.

The friends I’d counted on were not:
They came and went like rain:
All so enwrapped in their own lives
They couldn’t feel my pain.

It was just like so many days,
All running wearily,
So sad, with disappointments too,
All weighing down on me.

And though I knew I would survive,
That didn’t soothe my heart,
For sorrow deep and troubles too
Brought a longing to depart.

But then to Jesus I did run;
I saw it in a dream:
I stood below a gentle hill,
All carpeted in green.

When I looked up and saw Him there,
He stood beneath a tree,
And waited, smiling patiently;
He’d been expecting me.

I ran but didn’t feel the strain;
He grabbed me in His arms;
He wrapped them hard around me; held me
Strongly, safe and warm.

I’d never felt so light and free;
Engulfed with joy and rest;
No problem lingered to be weighed;
All I could feel was blessed.

And all the disappointments, though
So heavy they had been,
Took flight, and sadness too was gone,
Ev’ry conflict, ev’ry pain.

All threats and fears and torments sore,
All guilt, defeat, and shame –
In love so glowing and so strong,
All were dissolved away.

Then suddenly I saw a truth –
It caught me by surprise –
That Jesus’ joy exceeded mine;
I saw it in His eyes.

I’d known He would accept me, that
He’d made a place for me,
But never had I even guessed
How happy He would be.

He was so thrilled to have me there;
He laughed so loud and strong,
That all things not of joy and life
Just vanished in joy’s song.

And when I woke to this new day,
His laughter still did ring;
His arms still held me close and warm,
And now my heart must sing!

~~~

 

 

 

 

 

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The Gift

TERRY'S HORSE # 2 - brightened, new credits

I first saw her just across the ravine that runs through the Morgans’ wooded glen. I’d been walking there since dawn, too restless to lie in bed after hours of being too troubled to sleep. Old Man Morgan’s property bordered ours, and I often walked there, regularly ending up at my favorite spot, where the trees abruptly stopped to open up a small clearing and allow the sun to shine onto it in full power.

That day, as the sun caressed the earth with its warmth, it drew a heavy mist from the ground. A veil of softest silk; a gossamer film that shifted and swirled – light gray and white, but suffused with that iridescent pink that can be found only in the day’s very first kiss of sun.

All was silent except for birdsong, but as anyone who’s walked alone in the woods knows, that song is part of the unique quiet of wooded havens. There was no disturbance of nature from any direction – except within me. I had been besieged for months by a mind that wouldn’t be quiet, and a heart that raged against all that had happened until it sometimes felt as if it would burst from my body, and I would have to die. It raged at me that day. And the thoughts harangued me, until I finally threw myself down on the shallow bank of the ravine and leaned against the tree in exhaustion.

I don’t know for sure how long I sat there, looking out at the open meadow area directly across from me, watching the sun draw the mist and change its color from moment to moment. Finally, my eyes drifted closed. It may have been for a few seconds or for several minutes. Not having worn a watch, I’m still not sure. But suddenly, I opened my eyes and there in the open meadow walked the most beautiful horse I had ever seen. She was white –pure white – from nose to hooves, from mane to tail.

She was just far enough away that for a moment, I wasn’t sure I hadn’t imagined her form as a mirage resulting from the swirling mist. But the longer I watched her, the more the mist began to dissipate, and finally I was convinced of what I was seeing. She moved with stately grace, slowly and easily, but sure of her territory. I was interested to see that she walked the perimeter of the meadow, not stopping to graze, as most horses would, but seeming to delight in just taking the exercise.

I expected her to move out of my line of vision and go back to the stables or the coral where she had come from, but she did not. She came full circle around the meadow and stopped at an open area right in front of me, just a few feet from the opposite bank of the ravine. She nodded her head a few times, then turned and looked right at me. Blowing softly through her nostrils, she watched me even as I watched her. Then she whinnied quietly, nodded her head at me a second time, turned and walked away, disappearing behind the stand of trees at the edge of the meadow.

I blinked, then closed my eyes. Immediately, I realized that my breathing had changed. My heartbeat had changed. My mind was actually quiet for the first time in months. I took a deep breath and roused myself to look around me more closely. I could see by the changes in the light that the day was well on its way, and some of my responsibilities wouldn’t wait any longer. At the thought of facing what the rest of the day held for me, I started dragging again, but I knew there was something different about me – something fresher and more alive that hadn’t been a part of me when I started my walk this morning. I’d need to think about it more later.

The following morning, I woke to realize I had slept five hours. That, in itself seemed a miracle, but I was wide awake at the very first rays of dawn. I threw on my clothes and headed out the door, knowing exactly where I was headed, and wasting no time getting there. I sat, again leaning against the tree, and waited. This time, I heard her before I saw her. She snorted softly a time or two, and I strained my eyes to watch for her. The mist was thick again. It was that time of year, and nearly every day, it took an hour or two for it to burn off completely. Then I saw her – the same as yesterday – walking slowly through the meadow – always within my line of vision. This time, when she was on the back side of the meadow, she stopped and looked across the expanse in my direction. I couldn’t see her eyes up close, of course, but I felt sure she was looking directly at me. And when she whinnied softly the way she had the previous day, I was convinced.

She continued her walk and came back to the edge of the ravine, stopping, blowing softly, looking at me and waiting. Yes, for some reason, she just watched me and waited. Finally, I spoke. “Hello there, Morning Star.” The name flowed out of my mouth without conscious thought on my part. I don’t know why. It just fit. She blew softly again and nodded her head. She liked it. My heart actually skipped a beat, and my breath caught in my throat at the idea that this lovely creature somehow genuinely cared about me and was wanting to communicate that fact to me. It was an amazing experience.

I’d been a Christian believer all my life, and I was firmly convinced that God had personally created every single creature on the earth. I knew that in His Word, He clearly indicated that the human race is responsible for those creatures – not only to bring them into subjection, but also to love them, care for them, meet their needs, and bless them. I had always been a responsible pet owner when I was a boy, and I believed my dogs and cats had always been happy in my care. But this experience was a different thing. This time, it felt as if this animal were taking the responsibility to love me and care for me – even if only for a few moments. I wondered: could God cause these less elevated creatures to know – really know – when humans had needs? And could He — well, admittedly, I believed He could – but would He call on them to help those humans in their times of need?

I didn’t have an answer to that question, but Morning Star, whinnied softly to me again, nodding her head once more, so I started telling her about my life. I poured out more that morning than I had poured out to any other creature under Heaven. Well, in fact, I don’t think I had even said all of those things in so many words to God Himself. He knew them, of course, but there’s a difference.

When I was to the place that I was ready to stop, Morning Star was still watching me intently. Throughout my speech, she had responded with her soft, comforting, blowing sounds and an occasional nod. That was all, but oddly enough, it was all I needed. When I had been quiet for several minutes, she whinnied and turned away, again making her stately way into the copse of trees that evidently held the trail that led to her home.

I went every morning that week, more eager to rise from my bed each day, and realizing when I did so that I had slept more hours each night. By the seventh day, I felt truly rested. I hurried to my place of rendezvous, and to my delighted surprise, Morning Star, was already there waiting for me. She stood, beautiful in the mist, which held a unique golden-pink glow this morning. “Hello, Morning Star,” I whispered. She greeted me with her familiar soft blowing, nodded her head at me, and began her walk. I wondered at her turning away to walk right after I arrived, but then I realized that she was giving me time to settle in and get quiet enough to receive more help.

When she had come full circle and stopped, looking at me, waiting for me to speak, I realized the I had nothing to pour out to her about my terrible life experiences. My mind was so quiet that I couldn’t even find the haranguing thoughts that had been pounding through it for weeks on end. They were gone. My body felt light, fresh, energized. “Well, Morning Star,” I began, “Believe it or not, I don’t have anything to complain about today. In fact, I’m feeling grateful that I’m alive and well and capable of working.” As I spoke the words, I realized that deep inside I had been experiencing a gentle nudging for the past couple days — a desire to begin work on projects that I had put off for months. I realized with a thrill to my entire being that I actually wanted to work again! I wanted to live again!

I looked back at my friend. “I’m okay, Morning Star. Really okay! I’m ready to get back into life.”

She whinnied, more forcefully than she had done previously, and nodded her head so energetically that I had to laugh. Then she began to paw the ground and even prance a little. I could never explain to anyone how I knew, but I did know that Morning Star was happy – happy for me! It was one of the most exciting experiences I had ever had. I laughed, and she whinnied, eventually rearing up on her back legs and pawing the air in her own excitement. “Thank you, Morning Sar.” I said, and her response was another excited whinny as she reared up once more and then settled down again.

I rose and slowly made my way across the ravine, thankful that the water merely trickled through it this time of year. She stood still before me, still making her comforting blowing sounds. “Thank you, Morning Star,” I whispered again, reaching up to lay one hand on her nose and the other on her neck. She felt like velvet, and I was not surprised. She turned her head and nuzzled my cheek. I laughed, patting her neck again. “I love you, girl. Thank you for being here.”

After nuzzling my cheek another moment, she stepped away from me and half turned. I glanced upward, knowing the true source of the gift I had been given. I closed my eyes and lifted both hands in the air. “Thank you, Lord,” I whispered.

Opening my eyes, I turned to reach out to Morning Star again, but she was gone. The mist was gone. In its place, glorious sunlight enveloped the meadow and filtered through the trees and shrubs, spreading it’s warm brilliance everywhere. It bathed my face, drying the tears that had begun to course down my cheeks. I couldn’t hold them back, but they were not tears of distress. They were tears of joy and gratitude. I knew Morning Star would not be back. I would miss her sorely for a while, but she had given me a gift that would always be a part of me. I had my life back, and the will to live it.

I have no idea how she came to be in that glen. That she was not a figment of my imagination coupled with the mist, I am quite sure. I touched her with my hands and felt her nuzzle my cheek. But do I believe she actually lived on a segment of land anywhere in that county? Maybe not. Maybe an angel rode her to the glen each morning for that week. Perhaps I’ll never know. But I do know that she is one of God’s creatures, and that He graciously led her to me when I needed her. She loved me when I needed love. I’ll love her for the rest of my life.

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