on choosing happy

It is interesting how quickly we forget really good things.  How having made a connection with a philosophy that carried you through the worst of bad times, once in the good times, we forget how we got there.

Eight years or so ago I was not in a good place.  I was at the end of a relationship, which, in truth had already ended long before I had admitted this was so.  Having spent over a quarter of my life with the wrong person, letting go came slowly and took a lot of courage and self reflection.  So there I was, alone again, naturally.  Well as alone as you can be with a 10 year old daughter for whom the world has slipped on its axis, with sons coming and going and some great and amazing friends.  Picking up the phone to one, all I had to say was ‘I need to leave, and I have no money’ within 24 hours the deposit on my new house was paid, no questions asked, and a promise to refund it when I could.  Another call and a team of strong and beautiful women, well actually there was just two of us, with a car each and a fine temper, we soon shifted all the worldly goods needed to make a new house a home.  Through it all I could have been sad, or mad or tearful or all three, except I had been on a trip to Madrid.

The trip to Madrid, which is one of my very favourite cities in the whole world, was lovely.  Spending time with our Spanish friends was the tonic I needed before the big change in my life.  I was full of mixed emotions, fear, excitement, sadness and anxiety all at the same time,  We boarded the flight home, my daughter and I and settled in for the couple of hours of Easyplane comfort.  Daughter has magazine, puzzle book and other things to occupy her.  I have nothing.  I root around in the seat pocket in front of me and find, bizarrely, because this has never happened to me before, a copy of the Readers Digest magazine.   I have always secretly loved these small pockets of stories, facts and jokes, and so I started to flick through.  I came across an article about the power of being positive.  Now, given the chaos I was going through, this seemed to be a good thing to read.

The article it talked of a clinical trial, done by doctors to measure the effects on the body of seeing the good, rather than the bad in life.  Three groups of volunteers were weighed and measured, interviewed and examined and then the trial began.  Group 1 were given a book and told to write every day about what they had done in the day, just facts, notes about what they had been up to.  Group 2 were given a similar book and asked to record the things that made them cross, the niggles and the frustrations during each day.  Group 3 were asked to record the things that made them happy, small moments of fun, laughter or when things worked out just fine.

At the end of the trial the groups were weighed, measured and assessed again.  Group 1 were much the same, no real changes in measurements.  Group 2 had by and large gained weight, raised blood pressure and generally in a worse state than at the start.  Group 3 were the opposite.  Slimmer, fitter and lower blood pressure throughout the group.

I was amazed.  Can it be so?  Just by reflecting each day on good things, you can make such a change.  Once back and moved into our new home I spoke to my daughter about this.  I wondered if we could ‘choose happy’.  She made a poster for the kitchen wall and we looked at it every day.  In a time when things were possibly going very wrong, choosing happy saved us.  No question about it.  We started to smile, to look for the good in everything, and every day we looked for the happy.  We became happy.  We are still happy now.

Before I left my job I went on a staff health and well being course, and joined 11 other employees for a day of reflection and focus on being well.   I thought about all the rubbish that was happening at work, I thought about my sore legs, my aching joints and my worries.  I remembered about choosing happy.  As part of the group I worked in a pair with a woman I had never met.  When she told me her story I realised that I have absolutely nothing to be unhappy about.  I told her the Choose Happy story and she loved it.  She went away thinking I had inspired her, in truth it was the other way around.

I wrote the bulk of this blog almost a year ago, never published it and it has been sitting in my draft pile.  In the year we have had since I first put this together, many many things have happened we have had illness and sadness, lost people we love and fabulously welcomed a gorgeous baby girl to our family. Throughout it all we have remembered to chose happy.  It works, it really works.  Try it, what do you have to lose?

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