It is SO easy to get discouraged. This world is tough! It is very easy to get down and out and feel the weight of the world on your shoulders. I know that I certainly do from time to time. Sometimes it seems like we are surrounded on every side by trouble. Sometimes everything breaks at once, there are some days that nothing goes right and we feel like absolute failures. We ALL have days like that. Just because your day or your week is bad, does not mean that your life is bad. Even if you are not where you want to be in life, even if your life is not where you want it to be right now, you can still CHOOSE to be happy, or if not happy then at least content.
“for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” – the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians ch 4 vs 11.
Notice that he says ‘LEARNED’. If this is learned, then it is a skill that can be used by anyone that chooses to learn it! So, let’s get to it!
1. Be Thankful
Stop for a minute and think about what you HAVE. Do you have a family that loves you? Do you have a roof over your head? Do you have food on the table? Do you have a job to go to? Do you have children? Pets that make your life better? Are you still breathing? Just stop for a minute and take stock of what you have. What are you grateful for? We think about these things during Thanksgiving, but it can be very easy to take the things that we have for granted.
One year, I decided to do the one Thankful post a day every day in November on Facebook. When it showed up on my TimeHop, I remembered that was the year and the month that my Grandpa died. Yes, I was sad. I was close to him and I missed him and I still miss him, but more than anything that one post a day shifted my focus to the blessings that I had instead of the ones that I had lost. I was glad to have been blessed with him, and to have gotten close to him.
“Count your many blessings, name them one by one. Count your many blessings see what God has done.” – Song lyrics from a hymn
For me, when things are really going badly (and even when they are not) there is nothing like a good talk with my Heavenly Father. I just pour everything out to him, all my heart-aches, all my worries, all my concerns, everything I am going through, everything that is breaking my heart and weighing me down. I pour it out at his feet and (this is the hard part) I leave it there. He IS real, he loves his children and he hears their prayers.
Not too long ago, I was very worried about money. It seemed everything was breaking at once, it seemed like the money was just flying out of the bank account everywhere and I had all this stuff to fix. After the kids left for school, I got on my knees and prayed and poured everything out to him, and I sobbed my eyes out. I told HIM everything; all that was in my heart and mind. When I was done, I got up and I opened my Bible and everywhere I looked it was like the words were speaking right to me. I read where He loves his children and how precious we are to him (Isaiah 43), I read that he will give us strength and bear us up (Isaiah 40:31), and I read to stop worrying (Philippians 4).
So with that in mind, and feeling much more at peace, I decided to go ahead and face the music and balance the checkbook. Let’s see what’s left, let’s see exactly where I stand. But I could not find my pen; could not find it anywhere, so I searched around for a bit, and finally found one. I returned to my chair and took out the checkbook and two more pens fell out. I stared at the three pens and lined them up in front of me. Three. God’s number. Complete. Suddenly, the thought flooded into my mind. I needed one, but I was staring at 3. More than I needed. God had provided me with what I needed, plus a little extra, that was exactly what I had been praying for. I still balanced the checkbook, but the balance no longer seemed all that important. I knew that the Lord had heard and answered my prayer. He will answer yours as well.
3. Think Positive
A positive attitude will go a long way. I wrote a post about how it makes a difference in the classroom, but it makes a difference in ALL aspects of our lives. Looking on the bright side will not change anything that happens or is going on, but it WILL change our perspective of it. When we look for the good, we have a tendency to find it. For example, when my Father-In-Law passed away it was very sad time, BUT I was overwhelmed with how thoughtful our friends and family were. I had one friend that I had not seen in a long time that drove almost 3 hours to attend the services. I had another friend that sent me a plant, called and checked on me, and was apologizing for not being able to be at the service because she was in a high-risk pregnancy and not feeling well.
We received cards in the mail. Another friend of mine sent me a gift card to a local place that makes homemade meals that you just pop in the oven and bake. My husband’s community board continued to work on the project that he was overseeing and they sent him a gigantic peace plant. (Which, I might add, I have actually managed to keep ALIVE!)
The thing that I remember the most, though, remember the friend that could not make it to the services that called to check on me? During that phone call, I happen to mention that the lawn mower was broken (again) and I would just have to let the grass grow and deal with it later. A few days later, I hear a motor sound in my yard. Her husband had pulled up in his truck and trailer and without any to-do, unloaded his lawn mower and started mowing my yard. I was so touched. I had not asked for it, had not even thought about it. The lawn mower was one of those smaller concerns that I had put off because I was dealing with so many other concerns.
I watched him go back and forth mowing my yard, and then it started to rain. I thought he would put the mower up and go back home, but he didn’t. He just kept mowing in the rain. My tears started falling like that rain because I felt like it was certainly a time in our lives that it was raining, yet here in the midst of the rain, was our friend; helping us and supporting us when we needed it most. You know what I remember most about that time? I remember the love and support of our friends and family. That is what I choose to think about. Even in bad situations, look for the good things, look for the love.
4. Show Kindness and Give to Others
There is a very good feeling that comes from helping other people. It is a joy of giving and most of the time you receive more in return than what you give. Other people need our kindness. When we go out of our way to be kind to one another, it can create a chain reaction. You are nice to someone, so they, in turn, are nice to someone else, and so on and so forth. Love spreads instead of hate. Attitudes are catching! There have been whole movies made on this premise of spreading love, for example, “Pay it Forward.” Giving to others might be as simple as an extra smile to a stranger, or a kind word. It may be noticing that someone is upset and offering a hug or a listening ear.
Kindness can take many, many forms. The limits are only what your imagination can dream up. You can donate money or time. Make a difference in someone’s life, just by being kind. Make someone else’s life better. By focusing your attention on others, somehow that will make you happier and self-fulfilled. Your payback is seeing the results of your actions, or sometimes just knowing that you have been kind or made a difference. I always make a batch of cookies before parent-teacher conferences. I know that those are long days, and often breaks for food are few and far between. Everyone likes to be appreciated. I have not met a teacher yet, that did not send me a special “thank you” for that. The thank you and knowing that I had made their day a little better gave me a major happiness boost.
5. Believe that you have a Purpose
Why are you here on this earth? What are you good at? What is your passion? What is your purpose? Friends, the Lord put you here for a REASON. You do not just exist to exist. Believing that you have a purpose; finding that purpose is a powerful motivator for happiness. Do all the good when you can, where you can. I know that we can’t fix everything, but just think about why you are on the planet.
Are you really good at something? Do you love sharing a talent? Maybe your talent or gift is something that is not that obvious to other people. You might not even know what it is yourself. However, it is there! Don’t sell yourself short on this one! It could be that your purpose is to be a really good Mom to your kids. Maybe your purpose is to take care of aging loved ones. Perhaps your purpose is to be there when a friend needs someone. Are you are a really awesome nurse, or teacher, or whatever it is that you do? Find your purpose! Once you have found it; once you can start to pursue it, and you will be happier for it.
If you are still not so sure on this one, I have another article here on finding your passion.
(Edited on 1/7/18 for better readability and Search Engine Optimization)