“I just want to be happy.”
“I just want her/him/them to be happy.”
These are sentences you’ve most likely spoken yourself, or heard someone else say. Happiness can feel like a goal we need to work towards, or an elusive resting place we can’t quite get back to. It can feel unattainable, or lost, or be ridden with emotions like guilt. Happiness, or the lack there of, can be a difficult emotion to manage because it’s often written or spoken about a feeling we need to achieve, or that it’s something we do or do not deserve to have.
Family Caregivers often have a complicated relationship with happiness. You might find yourself looking back on “happier times” and wishing they were more frequent today, or you could catch yourself thinking of the future when you’ll feel more happiness than you do today. You could experience guilt for feeling happy when your loved one is suffering, or resentment for thinking you’re not able to be happy because of your caregiving responsibilities.
So much that happens in our life, no matter how we shake it, is not within our control. What we can control, is how we react in the face of it all. That being said, no one is going to feel happy all the time. Hard things happen, and experiencing the highs and lows of those events help us to build resilience and shape our personalities. Learning how to tap in to and experience happiness when we’re not at our absolute best is a skill, and it can be practiced and learned.
You can’t control how your loved one’s health will be this afternoon any more than you can change the accident on the road that’s preventing you from getting to your doctor’s appointment on time. Here are some things you can do today to experience those desired, and deserved, happy feelings.
PRACTICE GRATITUDE | We talk about this a lot in our newsletter and on the blog because it truly is such a life-changing practice. “Where your mind goes energy flows,” said Ernest Holmes. When you focus on the negative, you’ll feel unhappy. When you focus on the positive, you’ll feel happier. At the end of last year I was gifted the idea of using the calendar pages of my day planner to record the best part of my day. Prompting my brain and heart to find that happy moment from even the worst of days can turn my mood around quite quickly, and looking back at a month of wonderful moments is uplifting.
PRACTICE MINDFULNESS | This is also something we talk about so often, and for good reason! Shifting your attention to the present moment can shake up your thoughts and move them away from fears about tomorrow, or regret from yesterday. Take a moment to do a grounding exercise where you are, right now. A trick I like to use when I catch my mind wandering away to a negative place is to immediately focus in on something I appreciate about the moment I’m in. It could be as simple as a comfortable sweater, or noticing that a couple is sharing a loving moment at a nearby table.
CONNECT | Meaningful relationships enrich our lives. They make us feel safe and heard, and those special people who really “get us” also make us laugh, which is a pretty big part of happiness, wouldn’t you say? Schedule time with people that make you feel good in the same way you would make a doctor’s appointment, or buy groceries. It is self-care, and it’s important! If you think you’d benefit from connecting with other caregivers, try out a network group.
Cassandra Van Dyck