I was listening to someone recently who said her sadness had become a habit. She would wake up everyday sad and stayed in that place all day. She went on to say that this had gone on for about a year until one day she heard something that inspired her to make a new choice and that was to find happiness. My ears perked up at the word “choice.” I asked her how choosing differently made her feel and she said it made her feel free and happiness was better than feeling sad all the time.
The Sadness of Grief
The sadness that accompanies us on our grief journey is real. We are sad because we lost someone we loved. Sometimes sadness turns into depression which is a very real affliction and should be diagnosed and treated by a doctor. There is no time limit on how long we should be sad or grieve, we are all different and depending on the relationship and circumstances of someones death is usually the predictor of the length of the healing.
Can Sadness Become a Habit?
I wonder if sadness can become a habit. Often people feel guilt following a death and believe they shouldn’t be happy now that their loved one gone. They know the sadness won’t bring them back but somehow it seems easier to be sad and guilty and at the same time. I have had people say to me “how can I be happy when so and so died” and they truly cannot conceive why or how they will be happy again. So as time goes on and on people stay perpetually sad.
According to the author Charles Duhigg in his book “The Power of Habit” he says “Once you understand that habits can change, you have the freedom and the responsibility to remake them.”
Can We learn to be happy?
I believe we can learn to be happy even following a sad or tragic loss, but happiness is a choice and just like anything we choose in out life it requires effort.
According to an article published in the Huffington Post, on 16 scientifically backed ways to boost your happiness they give very specific examples, here are a few;
Smile. A 2011 study showed that thinking about something positive that makes you smile can actually make you happier (fake smiles don’t do the trick), while 2003 Clark University research found that smiling activates positive memories.
Pray. Spirituality and religious involvement is linked with greater well-being and happiness, according to a review of more than 300 studies on the connection between spirituality and health, while prayer is thought to relieve stress.
Laugh. In addition to relieving stress, laughter can boost mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Go for a stroll in the park. There are many health benefits to spending time in nature, including, perhaps, increased well-being. One UK study showed that subjects were significantly happier when in natural environments as compared to when they were in urban environments.
Keep a gratitude journal. Be thankful for what you have! A number of studies have found a strong correlation between gratitude and well-being, starting at a young age. Teaching kids gratitude in schools has been linked to boosts in positive emotions and optimism.
Think of happy times. Feeling nostalgic about the past can make you feel happier and more optimistic about the future, according to a recent University of Southampton study.
Books on Happiness
Just as there are books on grief, there are equally as many on happiness. Here are just a few…
The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living by Dalai Lama
Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment by Tal Ben-Shahar
Happiness Now!: Timeless Wisdom for Feeling Good Fast by Robert Holden
Happy for No Reason: 7 Steps to Being Happy from the Inside Out by Marci Schimoff
I hope as you read this you don’t assume I am minimizing anyone’s personal loss, I think being happy following our losses is not only healthy but important to our well-being and living out our life before it is our turn to die. Sometimes it is easier to be sad because following our loss it has become all we know but I bet that we all are honest we know our loved ones that have died would want nothing more than for us to be happy.
What do you think? I’d welcome your comments below.