Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Happy Choice

This might sound ridiculous, but a few weeks ago I decided I was going to make the choice to be happy. A particularly rough day following a particularly sleepless night had left me feeling miserable and cranky, and acting worse. As I sat down to dinner, I found myself complaining about all the negative parts of my day.

That's when I realized that I was making myself miserable. Yes, I'd had a rough day, but hadn't there been some great parts? A stroller walk where the sun made it through the clouds, Will's hysterical laughter when I tickled his belly, the excitement I felt flipping through a gardening book and planning for spring.

But when Greg came home after a long day at work, I didn't feel right bringing up all those moments. Who wants to hear about how wonderful a stroller walk in the sun was when they were behind a desk working all day? So instead I recapped every rough moment from my day, just to make absolutely certain Greg wouldn't feel bad that he'd been at work instead.

Why wasn't I giving Greg a chance to be happy for me? Did I really think he couldn't be pleased that I'd had the chance to be home with our beautiful son, taking walks, reading him books, making him laugh? Greg works hard so I have the opportunity to do just that. Yes, I also had a day of diapers and spit up and half hour fussing sessions of coercing Will into his morning and afternoon naps. But do I really need to relive those parts of my day every night at the dinner table?

So when Greg and I met friends we hadn't seen in a while for lunch, I tried an experiment. I took the old adage "look on the bright side" seriously, and throughout lunch I focused on the joys in my life. I chose to make it a conversation about story hour at the library, and Will finding his feet when previously I might have made it a conversation about fussiness or sleep deprivation.

At the end of my little lunch experiment, I felt cheerful, optimistic, and happy. Everything I had said was absolutely true, I had just made the choice to spend more time talking about the good experiences I've had. I acknowledged the negatives briefly, and then moved on. And I really did feel happier.

Yes, sometimes I need a sympathetic ear. There's a place for that, too. But it's not every night at the dinner table AND every time I talk with friends or family. Venting had become dwelling, and I was living the unhappy parts of my day over and over again.

So I'm going to try hard to look on the bright side of life. I'm not ignoring the challenges, but I'm giving the good parts of the day more attention. And you know what? A lot of the time, it works!

Look, here's me being happy! And how could I not be next to a friend from whom I probably could have learned the happiness lesson years ago :)

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