Take Time to Smell the Roses

Preventing unhappiness from seeping into your life is just as important as specifically inviting happiness in. Focusing on the good helps us get through the bad. [My] Happiness Guru, Gretchen Rubin of http://happiness-project.com/ says, “Keying into these tiny pleasures gives you a lift even on a happy day. And being in the habit of noticing them can also act as a buffer when you’re feeling blue or angry. One concrete cause of unhappiness is rumination. Studies show that by dwelling on irritating feelings and episodes, you amplify their power in your mind. Taking a moment to distract yourself from bad feelings can help alleviate them.”

There are times when happy thoughts are fleeting while irritating or disturbing thoughts just seem to hang on or, worse, take on a life of their own. Unfortunately, this week has been one of those weeks with an unwell, elderly parent (and aunt) raising painful issues for me and my siblings. Sure I had random happy thoughts all week. But, as I said they were fleeting, by my standards, and sadly, they were snubbed out without getting their fair share of my undivided attention. Staying focused on problems I can’t solve simply serves to make me unhappy.

Yes, my 77-year-old Dad is not well these days. Yes, his memory is failing (especially when he’s ill and won’t take medications to help himself). Yes, he’s very antagonistic, sarcastic, bitter and downright impossible to talk to when he’s like this. And, finally, yes, my sister who lives with him is between a rock and a hard place and I’m terribly sorry for her situation. I wish I could help more. But, no amount of rumination on my part changes any of this. Rather, it merely serves to make me unhappy. That’s not to say I cannot take some action. I did! I spoke with my sister and discussed the reality of the situation and potential solutions. And, I visited with my father to strongly encourage him to take the medications at hand. I even used my “old soul” to guilt him into treatment, “don’t you want to see me and my broeys grow up?” I’m not sure it helped my Dad or my sister much but it’s all I could do so I did it. Now, I should stop ruminating, right?

Most of us have heard the expression, “Stop playing old tapes”. That is, reviewing or reliving unproductive and aggravating conversations and/or scenarios over and over again in our heads and in our lives with no different or positive outcome. Another version of this is, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got!” Most often, the habit of ruminating, complaining, or bit**ing-and-moaning — call it what you wish — all result in personal dissatisfaction without solving the problem. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t think on a problem or seek other opinions in reasonable measure to find alternate solutions. Or, that you shouldn’t take action where you can and should. But, dwelling on a difficult situation doesn’t solve the problem and could very well create problems including unhappiness, resentment or depression…. Never good!

So, what should I do when negative ruminating overtakes my more positive thoughts? Admittedly, it’s easy to say but not so easy to do at times– especially when a negative situation is taking center stage. But, the answer lies in creating and then mindfully attending to those moments and things that bring me happiness. For me, that mostly means spending more focused leisure time with my kids and in nature. All the better if I can combine the two. It’s as simple as a walk in the woods, a trip to the beach (any time of day or year), or an hour at the playground… with the kids, of course! For one of my sisters, gardening and concert tickets can do the trick. For my Mom and another sister, spiritual pursuits work well. For others, cooking, participating in sports, gathering with friends, exercising, or reading a good book will work. The real trick is to know what puts the wind in your sails, then purposefully plan it, pursue it and be mindful of it when you’re in it.

There’s a bunch of generic ways to say this but I think the most apropos, with Spring just around the corner (another happy thought) is, “Take time to smell the roses!” Of course, to smell the roses, you either have to plant some — if you’re into gardening — or get thee to where the roses grow. THAT’S what I’m talking about.

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About Maggie

I'm a stay-at-home mother of 3 children including a 15-year-old daughter, the Old Soul, and 11-year-old identical twin boys who've been blessed with an extra 21st chromosome (aka: Down Syndrome). I happily spend my time doing all that I can do -- breaking the proverbial box wide open -- to foster my children's development and then sharing what I learn with you through this blog.
This entry was posted in happiness, mindfulness, random happy thoughts. Bookmark the permalink.

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