Smile, Breathe and go slowly . . .

 “Smile, breathe and go slowly.” – Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Zen monk, author and peace activist. I absolutely adore that quote. It’s applicable in any situation . . . when you’re stressed at the home (or at work), stuck in traffic, doing chores.

I just love that in just a few words, Thich Nhat Hanh teaches us how to be present and be happy, right here and now.

Today I am happy, happier than I was at 18 years old. I know so much more about happiness today than I did back then. I know that happiness isn’t something that will come at a later date in my life . . . it can be here and now. I was always waiting for something . . .  a better job, getting married, a nicer car, buying a house, traveling the world, retirement, wealth and fame. Trouble was, whenever I reached one of those things I was waiting for, I started striving for the next big thing, and I forgot to be happy!

So I’ve learned, that I don’t have to wait or strive for anything in order to be happy. I can be happy right now, and I am.

Many things make me happy today . . . really anything! I love reading, walking, writing, spending time with my family, eating chocolate, taking a walk in nature, playing games and sports, drinking green tea, lounging around on a lazy Sunday afternoon, cuddling when it’s rainy outside, talking with a good friend, wrestling with my toddlers. Any moment is an opportunity for happiness! 

Sometimes I will get muddled down thinking of the past or the future and these thoughts get in the way of my happiness. Thinking about the future or the past . . . worrying, replaying conversations in my head, stressing out about things that aren’t happening right now. Lately I’ve learned to focus on the moment more and more . . . to be present more than ever before. It’s really a miracle cure for unhappiness, stress, worry, depression, and everything else. Thinking about the past and future is the cause of all unhappiness. 

To give myself a happiness boost . . . I will steal a cuddle with my children. Instant happiness.

I watch people when I am out and about and the happiest people I know always focus on the positive things in their lives . . . they always appreciate what they have, see the silver lining on everything, and find the good in everyone.

The people who aren’t as happy focus on the negative things . . . they complain, they pity themselves, they think they can’t do something, and especially this: they criticize. They criticize others, and themselves. It always leads to unhappiness, for themselves and often those around them.

I have not always felt this level of happiness. I went through a period when I was just turning 30 where I didn't like where my life was heading . . . . I did not like the path I was on . . . I was not married to the right person . . . I was not (quite) in the right job. A very good friend of mine told me "I really hate it when you complain and do nothing about it". That day, I went to a lawyer and filed for a divorce. That was the first day of the beginning of the correct path for my life. I started making small, simple changes in my life, and these days I’m happier than ever. Small, baby steps did the trick.

I don't have to really work on being happier today(yesterday or tomorrow either), but these days it’s not so much something I work on as a set of habits I have . . . but to remind myself to be present . . .  to remind myself to be grateful and to appreciate life . . .  to remind myself to cherish the small things. I am thankful for all that I have, and when I remember this, I’m instantly happy. It doesn’t take much work.

Today is my birthday and I am really happy. Today I am 42 and I still feel 18!