it's a bella life
stop judging: 4 reasons, 5 things, 6 ways

living my happily ever after now


LiveHappilyEverAfterNow 

There was a time
I packed my dreams away
Living in a shell
hiding from myself
There was a time
when I was so afraid
I thought I'd reached the end
But, baby, that was then
I am made of more
than my yesterdays

This is my now
I'm breathing in the moment
As I look around
Can't believe the love I see
My fears behind me
Gone are shadows of doubt
That was then
This is my now

I have courage
like never before
I've settled for less
Now I'm ready for more
Ready for more

This is my now
I'm breathing in the moment
As I look around
Can't believe the love I see
My fears behind me
Gone are shadows of doubt
That was then
This is my now

Jordin Sparks

 

A little while back, in the post "the lucky number seven" (see #5), I mentioned that I was working on an art project. After gathering all of those images of happy people and pasting them to a canvas, adding my favorite phrase "live happily ever now," I've finally completed the project. I feel great about it and I really think it's a great thing to wake up to every morning (it's hanging across from my bed so it's the first thing I see when I open my eyes!). Looking at the large canvas hanging on the wall cluttered with images of happy smiling people certainly makes it a lot easier for me to choose happiness every morning (though I will admit that today, with its low hanging clouds and gloomy attitude, it wasn't all that easy!). Every morning I'm striving to say my new mantra when I wake. After opening my eyes, I say to myself, "Today I choose to be happy." Sounds simple enough, but it's not always. Sometimes I want to say, "I choose to be a real bitch" or "I choose to be in a mood so bad that no one around me can be happy." But I don't. Not anymore.

Happiness is a choice. Why am I so certain a bout this? How can I say this with such certainty? Because I'm living proof of this statement. Every day I face unhappiness. I am naturally prone to it. I veer toward the negative side of life and then I take hold of the wheel and say to myself, "No! Today I choose to be happy." I make the choice every day not to venture down that old path, the path of sadness and loneliness and depressive thoughts that kept me from being the person I always wanted to be. Some days it's not an easy choice. Some days it feels like it's the hardest choice I've ever had to make. But at the end of the day I am always, always thankful that I chose the happier path.

When I was a kid, I used to think there was such a thing has "happily ever after." I used to think I would grow up, become a famous writer (or the editor of Vogueas I often dreamed about), live in an amazing Manhattan apartment with my amazing and loving husband, and have so much money I couldn't stand it. I imagined myself blissfully happy, busy and fulfilled, my life filled with friends and parties and all of the beautiful clothes I could ever want (after all, the editor of Vogue does get all of the latest and greatest fashions, right?). To me, that was the fairy tale life -- the man, the career, the happiness (am I a baby of the '80s or what?!). I thought I would have it all and I thought that all I had to do was work hard and look pretty and it would all fall into place.

But these are dreams of childhood, and, as we all know, they don't last forever. When I was in middle school I started to doubt real life dreams. I cannot tell you how many times I've read in my journals over the past week or so, "Dreams don't come true! They don't!" I was angry and bitter at my discovery that the world wasn't all fantastic and perfect and magical. This place I was in wasn't the animated set of a Disney film. This was real life and I wasn't quite sure I was down with it.

I believed in the possibility of happiness (there was still a bit of hope in those old journals), but I wasn't quite sure where happiness came from. Could I buy it? (That didn't seem to work.) Could I blame the lack of it on society? (That didn't work either.) Could I look for it other people? (That didn't work and, in fact, seemed to bring about more despair and doubt.) Could I move away and find it? (That didn't pan out so well either.) Could I alter my mind with drugs and alcohol to find it? (That also brought about more unhappiness.) Could I research it? (That wasn't a bad idea but it still didn't really work.) How in the world, I wondered, could I find this elusive happiness?

Years and years and years of searching have brought me to the happily ever after that I find myself in now. No, I'm not working for Vogue (though I'd still love to -- call me, Vogue!). No, I'm not married to the man of my dreams (and actually have no desire to be married). No, I don't live in Manhattan in a fabulous apartment (but I do have a pretty decent one near the great city of DC). I am not living a "dream" life, but I do believe I've managed to achieve one goal -- and it is the most important goal of all -- being happy.

Right now I am living in my happily ever after. It's not someday. It's not with someone else. It's not when I have my dream job (yes, I know I will someday!). It's RIGHT NOW. This is my happily ever after. This is, as Jordin Sparks sings, my now. I can choose to love it, to be happy in it, to consider this my happily ever after. Or I can be miserable. Which would you choose if you were given the choice? Oh, wait, you are given the choice! You are no different than me. You can wake every day and choose to be happy. Yes, you can! C'mon, you know you want to...Okay, so you want to, but you don't know how? Don't worry! I just came across some strategies for choosing happiness over on Oprah's website. (I love that site!) Here are the strategies:

 

How to Live Happily Ever After NOW

(Thanks, Oprah's website!)

  1. Don't worry, choose happy. The best way to choose happiness is to be aware of what's going on in your mind. We have the ability to thwart "negative emotions such as pessimism, resentment and anger. And we can foster positive emotions, such as empathy, serenity, and especially gratitude." Though many say we all have a set level of happiness, you can decide to be happier by looking at your mind and understanding where the negative and positive emotions lie. You can choose which ones to focus on (not easy, but definitely possible!).

  2. Cultivate gratitude. If you focus on being grateful for what you have, you're a lot more likely to be happy. After all, if you're focusing on what you do have, rather than what you don't have, you're shifting your attention to the positive. One bit of advice that I like (and is very similar to my happy list idea) is to list the things you are grateful for every day. "This shifts people away from bitterness and despair [says author of Authentic Happiness, Martin Segilman] and promotes happiness." Give it a try -- it's a great way to choose happiness!

  3. Foster forgiveness. I love this advice: "In his book, Five Steps to Forgiveness, Everett Worthington Jr. offers a five-step process he calls REACH. First, Recall the hurt. Then Empathize and try to understand the act from the perpetrator's point of view. Be Altruistic by recalling a time in your life when you were forgiven. Commit to putting your forgiveness into words. You can do this either in a letter to the person you're forgiving or in your journal. Finally, try to Hold on to the forgiveness. Don't dwell on your anger, hurt, and desire for vengeance."

  4. Counteract negative thoughts. John Haidt, author of The Happiness Hypothesis, compares the human mind to the concept of riding an elephant. "The elephant represents the powerful thoughts and feelings—mostly unconscious—that drive your behavior. The man, although much weaker, can exert control over the elephant, just as you can exert control over negative thoughts and feelings." Sometimes the elephant is strong and you can't control her as easily, but, ultimately, you are the one in control of learning how to overcome negativity.

  5. Remember $ can't buy happiness. It's no surprise to me that "once income climbs above the poverty level, more money brings very little extra happiness." We often look for new things to buy if the ones we have aren't making us happy, instead of realizing that it's not things that bring happiness at all. We choose to be happy. Nothing (no thing) can do that for us. 
  6. Foster friendship. We all know it, but I'll quote the article here: "There are few better antidotes to unhappiness than close friendships with people who care about you." So choose happiness by choosing to spend time with your friends (and, no, online time doesn't count according to the article). The best way to make and keep lasting friendships, I've found, is to be yourself. Be you and the the friends with find you.

  7. Engage in meaningful activities. Like reading Positively Present! Okay, maybe that's not exactly what the article meant, but apparently we are "seldom happier...than when we're in 'the flow,' [which] is a state in which your mind becomes thoroughly absorbed in a meaningful task that challenges your abilities." So find something meaningful to you and absorb yourself in it. (This definitely works for me in relation to writing/blogging. I am so happy when I'm in the zone, totally focused on what I'm doing.)

 

I'm pretty sure all of these are great ideas for choosing to live happily ever right now. If you want to read the full article (and you should!), you can check it out on Oprah's site here. And if you want to distract yourself even further from your job/kids/etc., take the "How Happy Are You?" test on the site. (I scored a 26, which means I'm not completely satisfied with my life, but I'm not dissatisfied either...hmm...looks like I have some work to do...).

If you take one thing away from this (long, long) post, I would like it to be this: You can choose to live happily ever after right now. You don't need anything or anyone else to do this. There is no perfect time. There is no happily ever after in the future somewhere. There is now. And there is happy. And you can have happiness right now. You deserve it. So, go on, choose to be happy!

Comments

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This is such a great post! It spoke to me because I used to fall victim to saying, "I will be happy when..." and inevitably the "when" would happen, and it always felt like a let down. So now I catch myself when I start to think that I will happy "when" and encourage myself to be happy with "now."

What a wonderful and great art project that you've completed. Congratulations on reaching your goal. I absolutely agree with #6 in fostering friendship. Some of my happiest moments in my life were spent with my close friends.

"Fostering" forgiveness is a very good concept. People say "Oh, just forgive!" likes it's this easy switch to flip. But when someone has deeply hurt you, or violated your trust, it is extremely hard to forgive. Honestly, it can take a lifetime.

But fostering forgiveness is a process and a mindset. It doesn't mean that you have forgiven but that you have set that intention.

The reason I really enjoy your blog is because it's personal. Thanks for sharing your childhood dreams. I still believe that you can achieve them (think Randy Pausch). You might tweak those dreams a little bit, like maybe broadening your goal of working for Vogue to writing for a major magazine or publication company. But don't give up on your dreams. Choosing happiness doesn't necessarily mean that you become complacent.

Great post as always. It is interesting that often we are not living the childhood dreams we had. But I think if there's anything personal development teaches us, it's that it is still possible to achieve all those dreams. I started a similar project to your canvas last nite, called a belief board, that I read about on Steve Pavalinas blog. Right after I read it, I went straight to OfficeMax, got a posterboard, and index cards put up 20 empower beliefs on this board, and now it's above my desk all day.

I scored a 29! So, I'm not doing too badly. Haha. There are only two sections of my -lifestyle- that I'd like to change: career, and home. Which will be solved in a matter of time so I simply don't worry about it!

I definately need to work on the art of being happy with what I've got and forgiveness. I'm learning to let go of small things and not worry about them, but I'm not entirely sure I've been able to actually forgive the people that hurt me. I'm also learning to live more simply and enjoy the things I currently have, and I do enjoy them quite a bit! My meaningful thing that I engage in is making clothing and jewelry. I will sit and sew for hours! I love to be challenge and to put my soul into making something, even if it's only for me to enjoy (I do intend to improve my skills and start doing this for a living *career!*).

Thank you for a great post, Dani! Oh, and it's so crazy that you live near D.C.! I'm actually visiting my brother and his fiancee in D.C. this weekend. :)

Sarah - Thank you! I think we all fall victim to that "if only" mentality from time to time, but I think it's a great first step to be aware of it and to know you're doing it. I've always felt let down when I've gotten what I thought I wanted in life, which is why I really like to focus on the concept that happiness comes from within. You can be happy no matter what you have, what you're doing, or who you are.

John - Thank you very much. I was working on it for awhile so it felt great to finally hang it on my wall this weekend. Close friends are definitely one of the best ways to choose happiness in our lives!

Hayden - Forgiveness is not always easy, which is why I love the REACH concept. It really deals with the complexities of forgiving others (which, you're right, can be really hard to do if you have been seriously hurt). Forgiveness definitely takes work, but I think that harboring hatred or a grudge makes you just as unhappy (and maybe even more so) than it does the other person. Forgiveness is, in a way, a gift to yourself.

Vi - Thanks for the comment. It's been tough for me to open up and share more about myself with my readers, but when I get positive feedback like yours it makes it all worthwhile. You're right about the dream...if I tweak it a little there is still hope that I may achieve it. Primarily, I want to write and I want to reach people with my writing and I'm doing that right now so I'm pretty happy!

Srinivas - Thank you! It's very interesting to me how childhood dreams for some people are so different from the lives they actually lead, and, for some, this is better. Not everyone has a dream that is still fitting for them when they are an adult. Your belief board sounds great! I was just talking with my coworker about the idea of a vision board (Oprah's term for it) and I think it's FABULOUS idea. Everyone should have one!

"happily ever now" says it all. Happiness, awakening, being...can never be in the future. Thanks for a great article and insight.

Ia - YAY! 29 is pretty good! I think we all have a few things we want to change, but we are lucky that we have the power to make changes in our lives. Learning to let go of the past and forgive those who have hurt you is very difficult (I still struggle with this A LOT), but, in the long run, it really benefits you to let go of past hurt. That's so funny that you're coming to DC! A friend of mine just got engaged...maybe it was to your brother! :)

Kaushik - You're welcome! "Live happily ever after now" is my favorite saying and I think you're right -- in incorporates so many elements of living a happy life and living in the moment. Thanks for the comment!

I think having that reminder, right where you see it every morning, is a GREAT idea! What a wonderful gift you give yourself every day by aligning your attitude with your primary life goal first thing! As always, thanks for the beautiful post!

As you imply here, happiness is a choice. Every person has freedom to shape his own thoughts and feelings. A useful lesson is to realize you do not influence anyone else's happiness. Every person finds it within the abyss of soul. Reconnect with the Source, whatever that means to you, renew core energy and all that matters.Happiness is strengthened. It cannot be pursued unless you pursue yourself.

It is a choice...that's right. When I was a teenager and working at a jewelry store in the mall I used to put on a smiley face pin when Igot to work...I told people that if you pretended you were happy long enough...then eventually you would just BE happy...

I have had a lot of crap happen in my life...better than some, worse than others...but I CHOOSE to be happy 95% of the time...

Love your (long) post!!

Jay - It's definitely helpful to be reminded every morning. You're welcome!

Liara - Great points. Happiness is definitely a choice and we have to pursue it if we want to find it!

Dawn - That's a great story about the pin! I think it's totally true. If we think happy long enough, we will believe it...We see it work with negativity all the time, but we don't really realize that it can work the other way too! So glad you enjoyed the post. :)

I just watched this very interesting talk on happiness by Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness.
http://ted.org/talks/dan_gilbert_asks_why_are_we_happy.html

You've listed so many beautiful "choices" we have within our grasp. For years, I didn't believe I had choices. Coming to the realization that I did, indeed, turned around many things for me.

Thank you for all your wonderful words and insights.

Karen

Lyndorr - Oh, awesome! Thanks so much for sharing that with me. I will definitely check it out. Much appreciated!

Karen - It was the same for me. For so long I didn't realize that it was up to me to create happiness for myself. I kept looking for it, when, really, it was in me the whole time. I just had to CHOOSE it! Thanks for your comment! :)

Love the collage! So great that you've created a daily reminder for your mantra - I love it! I once made a SELF magazine cover with a picture of me running to stay motivated for the marathon - things like that work more than people realize. It just helps send the message to your brain that you mean business! I love this post and your inspiring message to choose to be happy NOW. Thanks so much!

Wow...such an amazing and insightful post! Happily ever after now. It makes sense! Now is all we really have. Not the future of happiness or the past...but this very moment NOW. I had big dreams from childhood...some things I achieved some I did not. It used to bother me...but not anymore. Sometimes we make choices that lead us elsewhere...and that is just where we are supposed to be.

Thank you my friend! I choose live happily ever after. Thank you for a beautiful blog post. I can see that it was written with love and I thank you.
Giovanna Garcia
Imperfect Action is better than No Action

Hi Dani.
I so get where you are coming from. But you know... sometimes I think we just "need" to be grumpy and let it flow. We get so caught up in trying to be perfectly nice all the time, and expecting everyone else to be nice too. And really how authentic is that? And... ahem, how realistic? :-)

I'm not saying to go out and purposefully be rude or hurt someone, but rather, to recognize the feeling is there and rather than avoiding it or hiding it, to see what is behind it... if we dare!

Jenny - Thank you! That SELF magazine idea sounds great -- very motivating! It's definitely important to do whatever you must to tell yourself you mean business when it comes to your goals.

Caroline - You're right, living in the now is so important. I think it's great to have dreams, but I believe, like you said, that we go where we are meant to be and that sometimes means that our childhood dreams don't come true. The beauty in this is that a dream not coming true often leads to a place where there are new dreams!

Giovanna - You're welcome. From reading your blog, I can see that you choose happiness. You do such a wonderful job sharing positive, uplifting stories with the world and for that I thank YOU. :)

Davina - Absolutely! By choosing happiness, I mean choosing it as a general attitude, not as in you should be happy every second of the day ('cause, believe me, I'm not!). I think it's important to address and accept and deal with all emotions -- good and bad. When you let yourself experience feeling down (as well as feeling up), I find that you're a much happier person overall. Great point. Thanks for bringing it up!

Heeey!
You are so right, your post is similar to one I made recently.
Happiness is totally a choice. Why be grumpy and negative while you can be happy. All it is, is that you make up your mind and say to yourself "I'm going to be happy today!".

Thanks for sharing this great post :)

Diggy - Thanks for the comment! I don't know if it's possible to be happy ALL the time, but more often than we realize we have the choice and we choose NOT to be happy. It really does come down to making up your mind and telling yourself to look for the good in every situation. There is always something good!

Is my comment from yesteday in spam or moderation? If not, I'm really sorry; it's crashed and burned somewhere in the ether. I won't attempt to replicate it in case the original shows up. It was one of those that gushed out, complete with ideas on how to use the art work (I rembember lamination and mouse mats among other things! Lovely, joyful art!

I enjoyed the title "How to Live Happily Ever After NOW". Yes, happiness is about living in the now and not in the future. I also pretty much agree that happiness is a choice. We take charge of how our days turn out!

Janice - I don't moderate comments so it must have gotten lost somewhere. Thanks for coming back and writing again! :) I really love the encouragement and I think that's a great idea about using the art work in different forms. It's a large, large canvas, but I could take the photo and use it for different things. Great idea!

Evelyn - It's based on my favorite quote (and my blog's tagline) and I'm so glad you liked it. When we stop to think about it, we realize that all we really have is now. Live in the moment and be happy!

Just as I'm preparing my own post on choosing happiness, yours popped up in my feedcatcher! I'll be linking to yours in mine - thanks for the continued inspiration!

When we're young, I think most of us make the mistake of assuming that something is going to make us happy - a relationship, a house, money. Something. Only those who realize that happiness comes from within, and not from things, end up truly discovering their happily ever after. Lovely art project, by the way!

Your art project is great!!!! What a fun thing to wake up to each day! Way to go! I love it!

Kiki - How funny! I actually read two other posts yesterday about choosing happiness too. Must be a popular topic right now! :) Thanks for linking!

Melissa - I agree and I think the sad thing is that we're taught that by the media. We're taught to believe that love/things/people/jobs will make us happy when, really, we have to make ourselves happy. Thanks!

Jodi - Thank you! It definitely makes me instantly think of happiness when I wake. (Not that I always embrace it...but I try!)

Happiness is indeed a choice as is awareness! Love the song! You have provided much wisdom in this post!

Mark - Thanks for your encouraging words! I love the song too...such an inspiration!

Hi Dani .. I love the plug for your own site - be positive and be positively present .. well done.

It's great you're feeling so energised and happy now - long will it last and lead on to greater and as happy a life ..

Have a great weekend ..
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters

Hi Dani .. I'm hopeless?! I forgot the most important thing .. your work of art .. great to be able to wake up every morning to happy smiling faces and "Live happily ever after now" in large letters bearing its message at you.

Clever girl .. to work out what you needed ..

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters

Hilary - Thank you! I think both the blog and the art I made are two great ways for me to focus on living happily in the now. It's not always easy, but I think it's really important for me to choose happiness. Hope your weekend is wonderful!

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