The Happiness Connection  

Who's in control? You? Life?

Is life happening to you, or is life happening for you?

There’s an important distinction between these two phrases, although only one word has been changed.

One leads you to believe you’re helpless, while the other is empowering.

Thinking life happens to you, is like seeing yourself as a pawn in a game where you have no control. Feeling happy or sad is forced on you by circumstance and the choices of others.

With this belief, you’re likely to spend time in victim energy.

This is when you feel powerless to do anything to change how you feel about yourself or your life. It’s as if people are doing things to deliberately hurt you.

Feeling victimized, or powerless is common.

You blame others, the world, or bad luck for your lot in life. How you feel isn’t your fault.

This may seem like an easy way to live because nothing’s your responsibility. Other people make you mad, hurt your feelings, and do things to upset you.

It may be simple to relinquish accountability, but it’s unlikely to provide long-term happiness.

If you were raised by someone who lived this way, you probably unconsciously developed this type of limiting belief.

Empowerment comes from understanding and knowing that your life belongs to you, and you always have choices. You’re never a rudderless boat being battered by the relentless world around you.

When you believe life happens for you, you see everything that goes on in your world as a positive opportunity of some sort.

It may be difficult to find the gift, but you believe it will reveal itself at some point if you keep looking for it.

Other people don’t make you happy or unhappy. Sure, they can trigger your emotions, but you get to decide whether to embrace how you feel, or let it go and move forward.

This is why I recommend that you learn to use your heart to guide your actions. Rather than reacting to events, pause and then feel into what’s best for you.

You aren’t here to direct anyone else’s journey. Remember to focus on you, not the person who’s upsetting you. Find a perspective that empowers you and trust everything is serving you, and them, in some way.

If you hold resentment, blame, or anger toward other people, circumstances, or situations, then you have the opportunity to begin today, seeing your life in a whole new light.

  • Choose to believe that life happens for you. There are wondrous opportunities to learn about yourself and to take responsibility for all your emotions, even the negative ones. Someone may trigger your anger, but they aren’t making you angry. You get to choose which feelings you want to surround yourself with.
  • Learning and growing aren’t always the easiest options. Uncovering old hurts and resentments are going to crack you open, but until you do that, you may struggle to step fully into your power. If the cuts are deep, work with a professional to help you.
  • You don’t’ need to understand why you feel the way you do. Choose the experience you want to have and release anything that doesn’t support that. If you can’t move on without a level of understanding, then as I said above, find someone to assist you.
  • Trust that everything that happens serves you in some way, even if you can’t immediately figure out what that is.
  • Take responsibility for your actions and your emotions. No one is out there trying to make you miserable. They may be thinking about their own happiness, but more often than not, you aren’t part of their choices or decisions.
  • See interactions as a dance with steps you may not know. What another person does or says is part of their pattern, not part of yours, although it may affect how you move. Your movements are yours to choose and be responsible for.
  • Stop blaming or taking credit for things that happen outside your own personal journey. Focus on your world, not on other peoples’.

Everything that touches you is for your benefit. That applies to the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Becoming suicidally depressed was a horrible time in my life. But without that experience, I doubt I would have realized just how important practising happiness is.

I would have preferred my 30-year marriage to have made it to 50 years, but it didn’t. I trust there is a purpose for that. I’m confident our decision was a good one for both of us.

If you want to increase your happiness, a good starting point is to examine your beliefs about the world and the power you hold.

Work toward being your own hero or heroine. Only you can make yourself truly happy.


You're not a bad mom

Not everyone likes the term fur baby.

I’m not sure why. For many people, their pets are like children. They love them fiercely and want to give them a good life.

For any woman who identifies as a mother of some sort, whether she’s given birth to her baby or not, one of the worst things to experience is being thought of as a bad mom.

This fear-of-parenting judgment is probably true for men, too. But this week, in honour of Mother’s Day, I’m focusing on women.

I walk my dog twice a day for his benefit more than my own. I take him for his annual examinations and vaccinations. I buy special dental food that can only be sourced from a vet. I shower him with my love.

I consider myself to be a very good mom.

I’m also a good daughter. I’m starting the clearing and cleaning of my mom’s house, so it can go on the market.

My dog, Charlie, doesn’t fit into this plan very well. He can be high maintenance.

Rather than worrying about his walks, pee breaks, and giving him enough attention while I’m attending to the house, I’m going to put him into daycare.

He needs his Bordetella vaccine before I can do this.

I contacted our regular animal hospital, but they didn’t have any appointments for two weeks. Rather than wait, I booked him in with a different vet.

I expected a quick shot and the exchange of money.

It wasn’t quite so straight forward. This new person insisted on doing an exam. It had only been a month or two since Charlie had received his annual checkup, but whatever.

I was taken aback when the vet came out and said Charlie’s coat was a little rough and should be washed more regularly. He recommended every two weeks.

I was also told that his teeth needed better care.

I’m sure my eyes narrowed, and my mouth straightened into a hard line under my mask.

He might have been trying to drum up new business by telling me things he felt my regular vet had missed. Perhaps not knowing Charlie’s history, made him see the situation in a different light. It didn’t matter.

I heard criticism that amounted to him declaring I was an unfit mother.

If he’d been talking about my car, I’d probably have dismissed his comments without much thought, or even agreed with him. But he wasn’t talking about an inanimate object. He was discussing my baby.

Being a mother can be tough. If you love your human or animal babies passionately, you want to do your best by them, but who decides what’s best?

When my daughter was born, I struggled to breast feed. I managed for 10 weeks. By that time, I realized she wanted more milk than I could produce.

When I turned to formula, I felt ashamed of my actions. I’d been indoctrinated to believe that breast was best. What kind of mom was I if I couldn’t’ do what was best for my child?

This same protectiveness, mixed with feelings of being judged, rose to the surface with the words of this unfamiliar vet.

Have you ever perceived that someone was judging your parenting skills? Maybe it was by your children. They’re often very quick to let you know of any improvements they think you should make.

When it comes to motherhood (and fatherhood,) it’s easy to fear judgment and to perceive criticism.

When this happens, ask yourself these questions.

  • Do my actions/words feel like the right thing for me to do/say?
  • If applicable, have I listened to the thoughts and feelings of my child and taken them into consideration?
  • Am I doing anything that I believe will harm or hamper the health and happiness of my child?
  • Am I willing to change my mind and course of action if the answers to the above questions change?

After considering these things, if everything still feels right, stay strong in your convictions. Ignore the naysayers and critics.

You can’t let yourself get too bothered by the words of others. Being a mother to any living being is tough enough without accepting perceived slights or criticisms.

No one gives you a mother’s instruction manual, and even if they did it would be useless. Every child is unique and so is every parent. There’s no one-size-fits-all way to be a mom.

If your children are adults, let yourself off the hook. Be there to love and emotionally support them, but recognize it’s time for them to chart their own course.

I accept that there will be things my kids didn’t like about my parenting. There will be situations they judge with some level of criticism.

That’s OK.

As long as you try your hardest, do what seems best at the time, can apologize when you get it wrong, and lead by example, you are not a bad mom.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Don't drink the poison

During the last 30 years, I’ve painted the walls of many rooms.

The best results come when I take the time to fill holes and cracks, sand uneven sections, and make sure the surfaces are clean before I start decorating.

The principle of prepping before painting, applies to many things, including happiness.

I received an email this week from a woman who wants to be happy, but is struggling. She’s plagued by feelings of resentment over unfair treatment in her working life that left her in a difficult financial position.

Can you relate? I know I can.

Getting stuck in negative memories and emotions is a common affliction. It’s not only painful, but it also keeps you from moving forward and finding a sense of peace and contentment.

If I go back to the decorating analogy, you can’t paint or paper over cracks and expect them to vanish permanently. They need to be filled and sanded if you expect the result to be lasting.

Wanting to be happy without addressing emotionally charged experiences that are lying beneath the surface, is futile. It’s a little like putting a Band-Aid on a severed limb.

It’s difficult to choose contentment and joy when you’re consumed with guilt, regret, or bitterness.

The good news for this reader is that she’s taken the first and most vital step already. She’s aware of what’s happening and wants to make a different choice.

The prep work needed if you find yourself in a similar situation, involves releasing the past with forgiveness and embracing the present with gratitude.

What’s in the past is in the past.

There’s nothing you can do to change it. You may feel you were treated badly or misunderstood. It makes no difference. The only way forward is to let all your outrage and negativity go.

I love the accuracy of this quote by Saint Augustine.

“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

Think about that for a minute.

Do you believe the people you hold grudges against are losing sleep over how you feel?

All you’re doing by holding on to these feelings is hurting yourself. Anger isn’t going to change what happened and is likely to keep you from moving forward.

Looking for others to admit they did you wrong, isn’t going to change anything. Your happiness rests on your shoulders, not anyone else’s.

That said, letting go isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Many humans find it difficult to release beliefs, feelings, and possessions, even though they’re no longer serving any positive purpose.

It’s as if you don’t know who you are without them.

But believe me, once you let go, the feeling of relief can be life changing. I know this from personal experience.

It doesn’t matter why you’re angry or resentful. Accept your emotions for what they are. You don’t need reasons or proof to support them.

I believe everything that happens in life benefits all who are affected by it. Some things can be devastating, but they come with hidden blessings if you’re willing to look for them.

Growth and resilience come from challenges. Be grateful for the tough times, even if they aren’t fun to experience.

My favourite tool when it comes to releasing resentment, anger, and bitterness is forgiveness.

Forgiving doesn’t mean you have to forget what happened, but it removes the emotional charge that’s holding you back.

I write forgiveness letters to everyone involved in any situation that’s causing me to hold on to negativity.

Don’t worry. You don’t have to share your words with anyone else. This is about you, and only you.

Forgive the people who caused you so much angst.
Forgive the people who seemed to stand by without coming to your aid.
Forgive yourself for wasting so much of your life being consumed by these events instead of being happy.

Write the letters, read them over and then either burn or shred them. This last step symbolizes your decision to release through forgiveness.

I like to use the Ho’oponopono prayer to structure my letters.

I’m sorry
Please forgive me
I love you
Thank you

I add how I’m feeling to each of these statements.

Don’t skip the letter to yourself. Take responsibility for your actions and emotions. Recognize that you didn’t have to hang onto your baggage and forgive yourself.

Keep writing letters as layers of resentment surface. If you’ve been hanging on to these emotions for months, years, or even decades, you can’t expect them to disappear in one day.

Once you start forgiving the past, consciously increase your level of gratitude for the present.

Keep a gratitude journal.
Every night before you go to sleep, think of three things you’re grateful for that happened that day.
Set a timer on your phone. When it goes off, stop, and think about something you’re grateful for at that moment.

Deliberately look for gratitude in everything. Surround yourself with it.

If you want to be happy and love yourself, but struggle to let go of the past, I recommend you try the above actions.

You may find it difficult to do this work by yourself. Don’t hesitate to contact a councillor or coach if you need assistance. They can help you if you get stuck or need support.

If you want the best results, doing the prep work is always worth the time.

I hope this helps.


Are you happy?

I’m not asking whether life could be worse, or if you’re grateful for what you’ve got. I want you to think about whether you’re happy.

Pause, close your eyes, and focus on the question.

If you’ve tried this, you may realize that choosing yes, or no is more complicated than it might appear at first glance.

Don’t rush to find an answer. Accept what comes to mind and then dig a little deeper focusing purely on the query, are you happy?

Thoughts that might run through your mind could include:

What is happiness?

  • I felt happy 10 minutes ago, but now I’m irritated. This question is irritating.
  • I have such a great life; it feels wrong to say I’m not happy.
  • I don’t feel happy, but I don’t feel unhappy either.

This isn’t a test. There isn’t a right answer.

The purpose of this exercise is to help you look more closely at your feelings and what you believe about your life.

Awareness is vital in any area of growth. That’s true whether you’re striving to progress in your personal life or at work.

You don’t know whether something needs tweaking, overhauling, or to be left as is, until you know what the current state of play is.

If you want to make changes to how you feel about your life, self-awareness and total honesty are two major keys to success.

Happiness is an emotion, but it’s also a state of mind.

I believe being happy is more about how you approach life, not the ever-present feelings of joy and excitement.

Some days you may feel grumpy or irritated. On others you may find tears close to the surface. That doesn’t mean you aren’t a happy person.

Being happy is about your approach to life and how you react to challenges, disappointments, and successes. It requires constant and consistent monitoring.

When you practise happiness, you don’t expect to love every moment of your life. But when challenges appear, you aren’t surprised, nor do you expect them to last forever.

I practise happiness and, generally speaking, am a pretty contented and positive person.

However, with the recent occurrences in my life, I’ve had to remind myself of some of the principles that are instrumental to the practice of happiness.

With the continuation of the pandemic, greater restrictions, and COVID fatigue, you may also benefit from a reminder.

  • You are solely responsible for your own happiness. Others may bring joy and pleasure, but without them, you are still capable of being happy.
  • There’s more than one perspective to everything. You have the power to choose the way you want to view your life.
  • Practising happiness doesn’t mean you won’t experience negative emotions. There aren’t any feelings that shouldn’t be acknowledged and accepted. They all serve a purpose. Your task is to understand their message and then choose to keep them or let them go.
  • Everyone who’s touched by an event or challenge has the same opportunity for growth, though not necessarily in the same way. Whether you win or lose, you have a chance to discover a deeper understanding of yourself.
  • Happiness doesn’t come from what happens to you. It springs from the choices you make. You get to choose your reaction, perspective, and next steps.
  • You’re not responsible for how other people view life, or whether they’re happy. That’s their responsibility.

With these principles firmly in my mind, I’m ready to get back to being happy.

More The Happiness Connection articles

About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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