Exercising your happiness muscle

I believe happiness is always ours. What I mean by that is that it’s always there, lurking in the background, but sometimes for some of us, it’s been so covered up with sadness and the circumstances of life we’ve forgotten it exists for us, always.

As I was wandering around my local village on my morning dog walk with The Beeble and Pip today it occurred to me happiness is a bit like a muscle that needs exercising; you know like the ones around our middle we can’t see but know if they were stronger or firmer our waist might be a little trimmer.

Last week I was up around Chester and when I got back I realised I’d done lots of little things that in and of themselves may not mean much but added together are evidence of a good life, one that when I reflect on it, is happy the majority of the time. I realised I’d spent a day exercising my happiness muscle.

In no particular order:

  • I was able to find a gift my mother wanted to give my sister really easily – much more easily than anticipated.
  • I visited a little coffee shop and sat quietly listening to the buzz of conversation around me, but without engaging mentally.
  • I walked down to the river and visited the park, something I hadn’t done for many years.
  • As I walked I remembered trips on boats on the river with various friends and boyfriends as a teenager, then getting up to all sorts of mischief in the park.
  • Going up on to the walls to get back to my car was a trip down memory lane and the years peeled away as I recalled gathering conkers with my father and siblings in the late autumn from one of the tower gardens.
  • When I was under the Eastgate clock I remembered the fun my sister and I used to have getting into the photos tourists were taking of the view.
  • I realised I’d forgotten how beautiful Chester is in the intervening years of living elsewhere.
  • Later in the day I took Ma out for lunch at a local garden centre.
  • Afterwards we drove to Parkgate and just sat for while watching the birds wheeling above the Dee estuary marshes.
  • And in the evening we celebrated my sisters birthday with her.

I seemed to make a decision that day to spot the happy moments instead of focusing on what didn’t go so well. And I’ve noticed I’m still doing this since getting home. I’m smiling more (and more … and more) and that means I get more smiles back from other people. It’s a virtuous circle, the more I smile, the more I get back which makes me smile even more … funny eh!

I also noticed that I was celebrating what I have and can do, rather than what I don’t have and can’t do. I’m not wealthy, I have enough to share the odd coffee with a friend and treat my mother to lunch every so often. In the past I’ve found myself wishing I had more money coming in. And now I suppose I realised I probably wouldn’t change what I do that much with more money, so why worry about it.

I was also aware how many tiny acts of kindness came my way during the day. Other drivers let me out at junctions, fellow tourists waved me though the narrow bits of Chester’s walls, and the barista in the coffee shop stopped for a chat when he delivered a complimentary biscuit. People seemed to have time and they shared that time with me.

And finally, I was able to be still without needing to rush to the next thing on a busy agenda. I didn’t feel a need to check my phone every five minutes, instead I was content knowing I’d get back to whatever came up in my own time. Simply sitting in the car with my mother watching the birds on the marsh without the need for conversation was a joy I’d be happy to repeat daily.

(Image by Vinson Tan ( 楊 祖 武 ) from Pixabay)

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