It is easy to choose happiness when we are sitting on the peaks of our lives. But what about when we are lost in the valleys? On those days when we find it hard to put one foot in front of the other, we are tested to go deep.
It is then that we realize that searching for happiness outside of ourselves is a recipe for failure, because happiness doesn't lie in our job promotion, our new house or even in our bank account.
It is in the reality that we create for ourselves through our thoughts.
This became evident for me when I first experienced the loss of a family member. You see death is the great equalizer. Not to be morbid, but the truth is that everyone on this earth is going to the same place.
In the end, two things will matter:
Were you happy?
Did you make others happy?
If we can master the art of cultivating happiness even when times get hard and when everyone around us would expect us to be anything but happy, then we are truly the masters of our own destiny.
Here are three ways to cultivate happiness even when it is hard:
1. Realize that everything is temporary
Whenever I was going through a rough time, my father would always say "remember that everything is temporary." It is this same phrase that I have repeated to myself through the trials and tribulations of life.
Whether I was going through the break up of a relationship or the loss of a loved one, realizing that everything is temporary is what carried me through my grief and helped me to go forward.
You have every right to allow yourself the time to feel sad and grieve. But realize that your feeling of sadness will eventually turn into acceptance and your feeling of being overwhelmed will eventually turn into calm.
This is the way of life. Our feelings come and our feelings go. What remains constant is the way that we process those feelings.
Everything dear friend, is temporary. And you too will get through this.
2. Reach out to your village
It is said that it takes a village to raise a child, but I believe that it takes a village to raise and sustain humans.
We are not made to be islands, navigating through life alone. Human beings crave connection. So if you need help, there is nothing wrong in reaching out to your village and asking for it.
Happiness comes from surrounding yourself with those who inspire you and look out for your best interest.
Many people believe that reaching out for help is a sign of weakness. Quite the contrary. Asking for help when you most need it shows confidence and strength.
Self-care is vital to being happy. Sometimes you need a friend to watch your children so you can get some sleep or you need someone to listen to you vent so you can release all the feelings that have built up inside of you.
Reach out to your village. Let them help you to continue to heal your body and soul. It is through nurturing your body that you can continue to nurture your mind.
3. Give happiness away
There is no greater way that I can think to be happier than to give it away.
When times get hard, we feel lonely and disconnected. Taking the attention away from yourself and giving it to someone else is just what we need to re-connect.
When you realize that you have the power to provide happiness for another person, you tap into the interconnectedness of all life. You understand that you are a part of a greater rhythm. Your life is important. There is a purpose for you here.
If you practice mindful meditation, you tap into the deeper parts of yourself. There you realize that everything is temporary, that you are not an island and that you have the ability to touch the life of another.
As Albert Camus wrote,
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there's something stronger - something better, pushing right back.
So keep pushing forward. Put one foot in front of the other. And know that in the midst of winter in this valley of your life, lies within you an invincible summer.