Choosing Happiness

Dec 21, 2022

By Brooke Gillespie-Trout, Connected Realities Team Member

In last month’s newsletter, we shared one of our resources with you: Time Reality Check-In.
I had the chance to participate in this exercise with some of the Connected Realities team members. When we were finished with the first part of the exercise, we went around the group after we studied our daily habits and discussed how it made us feel. One word came to mind for me when I saw my regular routine. Happy. It was quite a revelation to realize I can truly say that. I’m happy. But let me assure you, that did not happen overnight.

When we each elaborated on the feelings the exercise brought to the surface, I did something I rarely do… I opened up to others. I tend to be withdrawn and sometimes I have a hard time sharing personal things about myself. I’m often shy and sometimes misunderstood as unfriendly. I’m that person who is very quiet until you get to know me. Then you can’t get me to stop talking!

I shared with the group that a few years ago, I was in a very dark place. I was unhappy with my career. I had been in several jobs, doing the same work, and finding myself in the same toxic environment, no matter where I was. Stress levels were sky-high, communication was seriously lacking, and the worst of all, finger pointing. Placing blame on everyone when a task didn’t get done. People not taking accountability for their mistakes. At one point, I even noticed that the common thread in my unhappiness was me. It made me really question things. Was I the problem? What was I doing wrong? Was I a toxic person? Did I need to make serious changes?

Photo by Mimipic Photography on Unsplash

Over time, this unhappiness with my career heightened into the form of severe anxiety. Suddenly, I found myself crying on the way to work every day. Not just crying. Doubled over, in excruciating pain, crippled with anxiety. My husband and I used to commute together. At first he was sympathetic. He’d reach over, pat me on the back, and tell me it was going to be ok. Because he’s only human, eventually that sympathy started to turn into frustration. He wouldn’t say it, but I could see it in his eyes. The “here we go again” look. From there his frustration turned into worry, and he started to wonder if he needed to take me to the hospital. I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown and I didn’t know how to stop it.

By nature I am a happy person, so to feel the weight of this sadness, frustration, anxiety, on my shoulders. Well… let’s just say it made the days hard to navigate. I started to get angry. Not at my husband, not at myself for having very real, human emotions. I was getting angry at the situation. I refused to believe for one second that we are put on this earth to be so miserable. I was determined to fight this!

Photo by Jason Briscoe on Unsplash
Every now and then a phrase will stop and make me think. Change your environment, watch your growth.The only thing standing between you and a better life is you. Happiness is a choice. I heard this last one repeatedly, and finally took action. It wasn’t easy at first.To begin, I flipped my mindset. Any time that negative voice popped into my head to remind me of only horrible things, I looked at it from a positive perspective. Some examples: I didn’t have to work out, I got to work out. If I was stressed out because I had a deadline, I became thankful for that deadline because it meant I had work to do. When I got a rejection letter from a literary agent, instead of being sad, I told myself to be proud of that letter.  Rejection means I’m putting myself out there and taking the steps to make things happen.

During the exercise with my Connected Realities teammates, Le’alani said something that also made me think of that time in my life. She said, “The solutions are in the slowness.” This really resonated with me. I learned through that internal chaos that sometimes you have to stop trying so hard to figure out what the answers are. Slow down internally and be still. And in doing that, usually the answers appear. I learned to slow down, stop being so impatient, and to be grateful for all the good in my life. I learned to sit in silence and enjoy a moment. Most of all I learned to choose happiness, because when I decided to say yes to happiness, my life started to change.

I had shared my anxiety with a small handful of close friends. They began to send me positive affirmations and motivational quotes. I began to incorporate those into my days. One of my friends reminded me that the brain is a muscle, and if it can be trained to be negative, it can also be trained to be positive.

I then made a huge decision. One might call it a leap of Faith. Some might call it foolish. I quit my job. The journey through my career had been a tumultuous one and when I made this decision I was in a place where I was barely getting any hours at work. I listened to my intuition. For the first time in years, I followed my heart. With all of my experience, I knew that somehow I could do this on my own. When I made space in my life for that opportunity, guess what? It knocked. Less than forty-eight hours after I gave my two week notice, I received an email from an old friend. She told me that she remembered a few years back we had spoken about me doing some administrative work for her. She had a three month project she needed help on and wondered if I was interested. You bet I was! That began my first steps into starting my own business as a virtual assistant.

That’s me at a time when all I felt was pure happiness. I’m hugging the ocean.

Happiness is inside of all of us and we can choose it at any time we want! When we embrace that into our lives and decide to live a happy life, our self confidence flourishes. Then we can make choices that are consistent with our inner happiness.

Here are a few ways to choose happiness today, and every day.

  • Be grateful. When you start to feel down, think of three specific things you are grateful for. This will put a smile on your face, and shift your mindset.
  • Smile. A smile looks good on everyone. It transforms your features, it costs nothing, and it is often the best accessory anyone can wear. Also, when you smile, your brain releases dopamine, endorphins and serotonin. These are all associated with lowering your anxiety and increasing feelings of happiness. Plus, think of all the pretty smiles you’ll get in return! 
  • Incorporate affirmations into your day. I am happy, I am grateful, etc. They are positive thoughts that can improve your overall outlook.
  • Flip it! If you feel a complaint coming on, turn those “I have to” moments into “I get to”.
  • Love yourself. Be gentle with yourself. I find that we are our own worst critics. Any time I start to come down on myself, I think, “Would I ever speak like this to my family? To my best friend? To a stranger? To my children?” The answer is always no. So, if I wouldn’t treat anyone else so harshly, why would I do that to myself? 
  • Self care. I’m seeing this all over the place suddenly, and all I can think is, it’s about darn time! This goes along with loving yourself. Self care is so important. Making “Me time” a priority is nothing to feel ashamed of. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. You can have a home spa night, do a facial mask, give yourself a manicure. Take a walk in nature and enjoy the beauty of the season. Meditate. Visualize. 
  • Be kind to others. It’s the Golden Rule. Everyone wants to be treated kindly. Treat everyone you meet with kindness, patience, and grace. There really isn’t any reason to be unkind to others, even when that’s not returned. That’s not always easy, but it’s an important one to practice.

These are just a few ways that I practice happiness in my daily life. I believe they make a big difference and really help with my mental health. What are ways that you incorporate happiness into your daily routine?

Change isn’t always easy, but it can be good. I hope you choose happiness. It will change your life.