Romancing the Happy Ending

iStock_000005852895XSmallCome a little closer.

No, that’s still too far away.

There’s something I want to tell you and only you.

I have a confession to make.

Please do not judge me too harshly!

You see, it’s all Davina’s fault.

She started it and now I must make this confession.

So, lend me your ear because I want to tell you that I …

Just adore reading romance novels:~)

A Novel Approach to Happiness

Some might say romance novels have too much loving and too little literary merit, but that’s not the purpose of my confession. I love romance novels because they always have good endings.

They’re kind of like Hershey’s Kisses. You know what you’re going to get and it usually makes you feel good.

A dialogue in a recent romance novel captured my attention. It’s at the end where the characters “live happily ever after.” In this book the author has a rather philosophical take on happiness.

The hero, Aidan, is responding to a question from his new wife, Eve, about whether or not there’s such a thing as “happily ever after”. Aidan answers as follows:

“No,” he said. “There is something infinitely better than living happily ever after. There is happiness. Happiness is a living, dynamic thing, Eve, and has to be worked on every moment for the rest of our lives. It is a far more exciting prospect than that silly static idea of happily ever after. Would you not agree?”

These lines sum up my belief in happiness better than most of the textbooks I’ve read on the subject. This got me thinking about what else romance novels have to say about happiness. Turns out, I think these books have features that are important to learning happiness. For example:

Happiness Thrives with Positive Thinking

In most romance novels the main characters have to let go of their doubts, fears or anger before they can truly be happy with the one they love.

This is also true about happiness. Negative thinking makes it very hard to be happy. Just as these characters do, we have to choose to let go of our own fears and doubts to experience happiness more often.

Happiness Needs to Be Acknowledged

Characters in a romance novel spend a lot of time being afraid to declare their love. However, by the end of the book they usually acknowledge their true feelings.

Happiness also requires recognition and acknowledgment; we must be willing to declare our happiness. By acknowledging it openly, we teach our minds to recognize it and file it as something important and valuable.

Happiness Requires Faith

Every romance novel has a time when one or both characters lose hope in their future happiness. Usually, there’s a situation or problem that seems insurmountable. Once resolved, however, their happiness prevails in the end.

There are times when we lose hope in our future happiness. This may be one of the hardest lessons we have to learn; having the faith that happiness is always a part of us, even when we think we will never be happy again.

I believe the characters in romance novels aren’t that different from you or me. They are seeking happiness and love, and they usually find it because they make an effort to work at it.

I think the same can be said about us; we also must work for happiness. This isn’t always easy, but it can be done.

Once again, Aidan’s words to Eve say it best…

“Happiness is a living, dynamic thing and it has to be worked on every moment for the rest of our lives.”

I believe Aidan’s got the right idea. Would you not agree?

P.S. Just in case you’re also a “secret lover” of romance books, the lines in this post about happiness were excerpted from a novel by Mary Balogh called “Slightly Married”.

HAPPY NEWS: Read all about it!

happy-newsPracticing a happy life

I’ve always been a news junkie and for years, I watched CNN and other news stations as much as possible. I would sit watching and listening to reporters’ accounts of the terrible things that had happened, all the while feeling helpless.

Some people can watch the news and just shrug off the bad stuff. For me, it sticks. It’s like I’m gaining weight, only the pounds are in negative energy. Let’s face it; it’s hard to find positive energy in today’s news!

However, I’ve also been working on learning to be happy and practicing as much as I can. I knew if I was going to live a happier life, I had to make some good choices.

About happiness

I made the decision to stop watching and reading the news. I cancelled my newspaper and no longer watch CNN or any other TV news program. For me, this was the right choice. I’ve noticed that I’ve been calmer and to be honest, much happier. I figure if anything major happens, I’ll read about it on Twitter!

Then again, when you eliminate ALL news, you don’t hear about the good things that happen. Like when Bhutan decided to adopt the gross national happiness (GNH) policy as an alternative to the gross national product (GNP).

I stumbled across this article on “Recalculating Happiness” by accident when I picked up an international newspaper in Switzerland… I know I cheated, but I needed a hit of news!

According to this article, the GNH means that the Bhutan government is judged not by the economic and monetary benefits it offers, but by the happiness and well-being it produces. In other words, the government seeks to create conditions that focus on making the Bhutanese people happier in their lives. Now, this is news I like to hear!

After reading this article, I realized I might be making a mistake by assuming there were no sources of happy news. I started to do some online research. It only took a couple of clicks before I found my new source of news!

Happy news

It’s appropriately called, Happy News. The stories, columns, videos, and just about everything on this site focuses on positive news events. Believe it or not, they even have a category for Business and Money, where most of us wouldn’t expect to find any happy news; but it’s there.

I have read many of the stories on this site and guess what? I feel happier after reading them. The categories mirror those used in most newspapers. They include international and national news, business and money, health, science and technology, arts and entertainment, sports, heroes, editorials and of course, the environment.

I’ve explored almost all of them, and can honestly tell you they are interesting, well written, and very positive stories about things that have happened in this world of ours. Good things really do happen! When you experience the stories in abundance the positive energy is magnified. Since I’ve been reading the “happy news”, I haven’t gained back any of those negative energy pounds :~)

I am learning to live happy by making good choices in my life; choices that increase my opportunities to feel happy and content. Happy News works for me. I can read the news every day with a smile on my face. Check it out. I guarantee you’ll find at least one story that will bring a smile to your face!

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What do you do to increase your own happiness?

How do you handle negative news stories on TV or in the newspaper?

Just Say NO: It’s a healthy thing to do!

Deadline

Are you the person everyone goes to during a crisis?  Are you always helping someone else and never have time to do the things you love?  If someone needs you, do you feel selfish if you don’t help them?

If you answered any of these questions with a YES, you might want to practice just saying NO.

NO is a small word, but it’s also very essential.  Learning how to say this small word is important.  Not only does it help you set boundaries for yourself, it’s also good for your heath.

Research shows that good health and longevity are increased when we feel satisfied and happy. By learning to say NO, you have time to nurture yourself and do the things you love.  This is key to feeling satisfied and happy.

There may be times when helping someone IS satisfying and something we really want to do, but for some of us, we help because we think we MUST do it.  When we’re responding more to the “must do,” our lives become unbalanced.

NO allows you to create balance in your life.

Therefore, if you look at your schedule and see that you don’t have any time left for taking care of yourself, it is time to start saying NO.  Here are a few tips that might help:

Become comfortable saying NO.

Think of a situation when you said yes and you really wanted to say NO. Look in a mirror and using that situation, practice saying NO.  To take this a step farther, practice with a friend. Let them try to convince you to say yes.  Keep practicing until you can say NO comfortably and assertively.

Remember not every situation requires a definite Yes or NO.

Sometimes you can find the middle ground or make a counter-offer.  For example, when someone asks you for a favor, you can always suggest a time that would be more convenient.  You might say, “I can’t do it tonight, but how about tomorrow?”

Keep in mind you can say NO in a nice way.

Many times, people say yes because they don’t want to appear selfish or hurt someone’s feelings.  Yet, over time, constantly saying yes can cause resentment and even exhaustion. Fortunately, you can learn to say NO very nicely.

A friend once told me how she learned to do this.  Every year, her pastor asked her to chair their church’s annual benefit.  After years of doing this, she needed a break. So, when her pastor asked, she simply said, “Thank you for asking me and it’s an honor, but I can’t do it at this time.”  She let him know that she was honored to be asked, but she still said NO.

Learning to say NO gives you time to do things that support your mental and physical well-being. That’s not selfish or uncaring; it’s healthy.

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What about you?

What suggestions do you have for saying NO nicely?

What positive things have happened when you said No, instead of YES?

Learning Happiness 2: Actively plan for your happiness

In the previous post, I talked about understanding how happiness feels for you, as it is different for everybody.  Now, I’d like to focus on what makes you happy.

Personally, I seem to know more about what makes me unhappy, rather than what makes me happy.  But I have been working on changing this.

For example, I love to be outdoors.  Whether it’s sitting in the rocking chair on my porch watching the birds eat at the feeders, or taking a long walk in the park, I feel happy when I’m enjoying nature.  In this case, I’m not feeling a giddy happiness, but rather a peaceful and content one.

Unfortunately, I don’t put enough “outdoor time” in my calendar and therefore, I forget it.  I haven’t made it a goal, with appropriate action steps.

Learning happiness requires planning.

First, you need to be aware of what makes you happy.  Then you need to plan how and when to bring these activities into your life.

That’s why this exercise is so important.

Step 1:  List five healthy things in your life that make you happy.  If you can’t think of five, that’s okay; just write down as many as you can.  I included the word “healthy” here because you don’t want to invite the “Guilt Monster” to visit along with the happiness. Otherwise, peanut M&Ms might top my list.

Step 2:  Look at your list. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, rate each of these according to how often you allow yourself to experience them.

Step 3:  Look at the ones you rated below five (ones you’re not doing frequently).  Pick the one that feels most important to you right now.

Step 4:  Write one or two action steps you can take that would help you do this activity more often.  Be sure to set specific dates for achieving these steps.  Setting dates makes an action more tangible.  If you use a calendar, it’s even better to write your action steps in your calendar.

I recommend you do this exercise regularly. Keep a list of the things that make you happy.  Eventually, you may collect a list of 14,000 things to be happy about! Barbara Ann Kipfer has written a book by this very title and I have mentioned it in a previous post on learning happiness.

I believe we are born with the natural ability to be happy. It’s a myth that we must wait around until, by some lucky chance, it finds us.  We CAN learn to increase happiness, but it takes work.  We have to seek it out and then practice it.  The more we do this, the more opportunities we will have to be happy.