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I read an article the other day – It’s title was Happiness in Hard Times. As might be suggested, it spoke about the importance of trying to maintain some degree of happiness when we are really struggling, as so many of us are in the pandemic. One of the positive points made was that we humans are actually wired for happiness. A researcher studying the genetics of joy has actually located, so far, 304 “happy genes” on our DNA.

It has been found that happiness can create and sustain emotional resilience in difficult times, and that the reverse is true as well. Finding positive meaning in circumstances can also help generate happiness. The article went on to provide concrete ways to navigate our current crisis (as well as any others); one of them is listening to music.

Which brings me to the point that had such an impact on me. Doctors and nurses in hospitals when interviewed all shared the tremendous pressure they were under during the pandemic. A pulmonologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City described the relentless work in the critical care areas as a war zone. But Lenox Hill decided to do something about it. Every time a COVID-19 patient was released from the hospital or could breathe well enough to come off a ventilator, the hospital played Here Comes the Sun over the loudspeaker.

One nurse tearfully described hearing that song 20 times in one day, and every time she heard it, she felt a little better … it helped her know that all they were doing was actually making a difference.

It may be a challenge at times, but I think if we can find just one bright spot in each day, and either hold it close to our hearts, or share it with another, we’ll make a difference in these challenging times – and enjoy being what we seem wired to be – happy. Hey … here comes the sun.

 

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When you come right down to it, it often really is the little things that make a big difference. Sure, the milestones are wonderful, but day-to-day? It’s the small stuff. I count myself lucky, and I suspect you might feel the same way, in being a person who can say, “It doesn’t take much to make me happy.” Here are a few of the little things that have made me happy recently.

This is one of those things where I can say, “Finally!” I’d gotten a new cover (read that as cat hair deterrent) for the couch and was just back-pedaling forever on getting some pretty throw pillows. Voila!

When I came home from an errand in mid-February, I found on a table, at my side door, a beautiful bouquet of tulips. They were left there for me by a dear friend for Valentine’s Day. How lovely is that?

In the wake of losing my sweet little guy, Pumpkin, another wonderful friend sent me this. I shed a few more tears, but yeah, this will do it.

Although the sugar cookies for my friend’s book launch are absolutely fantastic, it’s the catching up, the silliness, the forgetting to add the vanilla (my bad – I fixed it), and fun together that means the most.

Oh, look! It’s another case of “Finally!” The blinds that were once at these back windows had been a little broken on the left side when I moved in; then the cord shredded out on the right side. But how long did it take me to actually get curtains? I’m not saying. The chairs, BTW, if I remember correctly, are from the 30’s and that is the original milk paint.

Hardly a “little thing”, my Jazzy, but she is a part of my everyday life that I am always grateful for. As we can be grateful for the little things, cats are always grateful for boxes. Of any kind.

Irish oatmeal with blueberries, cinnamon, and a pat of Earth Balance. Makes my day whenever I cook it up.

It’s been a long winter, even though, thankfully, it’s been a mild one. With plenty of work and too much else going on, I haven’t gotten out as much as I’d have liked.  Today in the low 50’s again, I couldn’t help but notice a harbinger poking it’s pretty green self through the leaf litter.
I see you there, Spring.

And last but not least of the “little things” – the small, muddy paw prints that trace a route from the backyard up my porch steps and to my back door. You know whose they are. I have no intention of washing them away until it’s warm enough for the garden hose to be hooked up. And maybe not even then.

I hope this has inspired you to think a little about the wonderful “little things” in your life. I hope you find and cherish them.

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I say `taking back’, because it can be too often that we have given it away. To others, to circumstances, to fears. And sometimes without even being aware that that is why we feel the way we do. I am musing on this because I watch myself, sometimes undulating like the waves, feeling strong, and then suddenly, even if for only a moment, powerless. I remind myself, we are never truly powerless. Even though it can certainly feel that way at times. It’s another life lesson – taking back our power, and remembering that we always have the choice to do so. If we feel we can’t? Well, as one of my favorite people, Louise Hay, has always said, “It’s only a thought, and a thought can be changed.”

Here’s another woman’s thought about that. Susan Polis Schultz says, “This life is yours. Take the power to choose what you want to do and do it well. Take the power to love what you want in life and love it honestly. Take the power to walk in the forest and be a part of nature. Take the power to control your own life. No one else can do it for you. Take the power to make your life happy.”

Happiness is also a choice, much as taking back our power is and they are inexorably intertwined. When we feel in control of our lives, we tend to be happy. We are not living according to the fear of others’ expectations (be they past or present), or of what will happen next. We are not filled with doubts.

This is our time on this planet. We can live in our space and our truth, and know what’s important to us. We have the right to pursue and find what brings happiness and tranquility into our lives. It may be a journey, but I do believe we can be there in this moment. We can live lighter and more freely, more optimistically.

In addition to my classic A.A. Milne Winnie the Pooh books, I also have a book by Benjamin Hoff titled The Tao of Pooh in which we realize what a zen-like – and therefore, powerful – character Winnie the Pooh really is.

In the wise words of author A.A. Milne,

“What day is it?”
It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
My favorite day,” said Pooh.”

And that’s how it’s done.

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MerryChristmas2014-2

 

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I came across this wonderful quote today and it just stopped me in my tracks. Huh, I thought, isn’t that the truth?

MalikBhai-ChildJoy2

“It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.” 

― Dale CarnegieHow to Win Friends and Influence People

And that set me pondering .. exactly what is it that makes me happy? When I stopped to think about it, there were so many things … and then I realized that what really makes me happy can sometimes change from minute to minute. This moment it can be a fall-scented candle, the next, the smile of someone I care about, noticing how surprisingly graceful is the flight of a Chinese mantis, the color of the coffee in my cup, the well-crafted labyrinthine twists and turns in the book I”m reading, the small feline squeaking at me for food, etc. Think about it … that’s where the happiness is – in our attitude towards everything in our lives. That’s not to say we should be Pollyanas. But how we look at what is in our lives can make the biggest difference in how happy we are. Mind you, I am not saying that I have mastered the zen art of peace and happiness every moment of the day, but I am getting better and better in knowing how to find it and embrace it, as can you.

I decided to do an online search for a photo of happiness for this post. As you can imagine, that brought up a real cross-section of images. Some of marriage, some of children and others of people leaping for joy, animals, music, beautiful nature scenes, etc.  because happiness is often very subjective. Of all the photos I looked at, what made ME feel happiness at that exact moment was the photograph above of this child playing in the rain, such joy in his face.

In a little while, it may be something else, but for right now … that’s happy. And it’s good.

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Can you name two things that don’t go together? There they are. Happiness and control.

As long as we are trying to control an outcome, we’re never going to be happy. Imagine right now … say to yourself, “I would really be happy if …” and I’ll tell you that inevitably it will mean that if something or other would just go differently than it is, i.e. how you would like it, you could be happy. This is a lesson that comes up again and again and again. And in every area of one’s life.

Right now for me, both of my animals have serious medical problems, one just discovered within the last week. I would be happy if … this weren’t so; if … I could alter the outcome; if … what ails them could be turned around. None of this is reality. I can do the best I can to comfortably extend their lives for as long as possible. Who knows how long that might be? Surely, not me. And I can enjoy their wonderful company for as long as that is. I can do my best and that’s all I can do. And if I can get my head straight – it seems to come in and out of this – I can actually be happy right now as they have so far lived wonderful, happy lives and given me so much joy. And they will continue to do so for as long as they do.

We all have circumstances in our lives we wish were different. They often involve others, no? But what we need to always remember is that we are all living beings, of one species or another, on our own journeys in this lifetime. I’m not here to control yours. Nor you, mine. I don’t believe it’s our job to keep trying to control how things turn out. We can do our best to be a force for good, but beyond that, we need to trust that the Universe is in order and all is happening exactly as it should.

And there’s the happiness. Not saying it’s easy, but in that peaceful, trusting state of mind, it becomes much easier. Be happy. Me, too.

p.s. The photo is of the happiest plant on my porches. This was not the year of the thriving plants and flowers, but for some reason, this coleus, in a spot I considered probably too sunny, just gets more rich and beautiful every day. Perhaps that’s what I’m talking about.

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