By Mary Farrell, MS, PCC
This is part four in a LiveWell blog series on happiness that launched with “Live well, live happy” in January.
Being happy can feel out of reach when life presents great struggles.
Though this feeling is valid, research shows that satisfaction and happiness are possible even in the face of difficulties, stress and trauma. Happy people are able to develop strategies for coping and weathering the storms of life.
I personally experienced this recently. I was in the hospital twice with an illness over the course of just a few weeks. While I experienced pain and stress, I also found many unexpected joys. These included giggle-filled visits with friends, tender and loving moments with my parents, and daily deliveries of all things pretty, delicious and inspirational.
Research provides some guidelines for claiming your happiness during difficult times:
- Your past holds many lessons that you may apply now.
- Think back to a time when you encountered great difficulties. What got you through? What supports did you have? What strengths did you use?
- Now consider how you changed and grew as a result of those past trials. What do you know about yourself? What motivated you?
- Consider the intensity of the problem you are facing.
- To get through it, are you able to develop a plan to deal with it? If so, jump right in!
- Is it overwhelming to even consider your problem? Then this is not the time to strategize. It is time to step back, regroup and to gather support and comfort. You may need to go for a run or you may need to tend to your spirit, but step away from the problem first for centering and calming.
- Be open to growth and resilience.
- Think of resilience as the ability to hold the positive and the negative in the same space. Resilient people know that life is not one or the other, but both.
- If you struggle with this, you could seek out help in developing resiliency within yourself. There are books on resiliency, such as “The Chemistry of Calm” and “The Chemistry of Joy” by Henry Emmons, MD. The Penny George Institute for Health and Healing also offers a Resilience Training program inspired by “The Chemistry of Joy” and Mindfulness Training classes based on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book, “Full Catastrophe Living.”
- This is not the time to go solo.
- Gather support and reinforcements.
- If this is not hard for you, seek out some support.
- If this is uncomfortable for you, consider the following:
- When we are able to help someone, we feel great. Consider that you would be giving a friend or family member this opportunity.
- Remember that people are not mind readers. We sometimes assume that others don’t care when in reality, they simply don’t know what we are going through. When we make our needs known, we have a much better chance of having them met.
- Find meaning amid hardship.
- It is important that you find the meaning and it is not imposed on you.
- The silver lining or meaning may not be readily apparent, but sometimes just trusting that there is meaning beyond what you are experiencing is comforting.
Remember that being happy is not a condition reserved for those without difficulties and stress. It is normal to have difficulties, and there are opportunities for joy, growth and deep connection within the dark hours.
Mary Farrell, MS, PCC, is an integrative health & wellness coach and an exercise physiologist with the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing’s LiveWell Fitness Center. Call 612-863-5178 to make an appointment with her.
Past entries by Mary Farrell in the Live well, Live happy series: