No matter what’s happened or is happening, even YOU can find joy again. Promise.
by Wendy Keller, author, speaker, blogger, mom
OK, so here’s the deal, best as I can figure it. Bad stuff happens. To all of us. In the worst possible ways and at the worst possible times. We hurt. Life hurts. It’s painful. It can be awful, sad, terrible, frustrating and more.
And you can still choose to be happy.
“Like hell!” you say. “This psycho woman has no idea what I’m dealing with here.”
“It’s true. You can do it,” I insist, standing firmly in my own journey through anguish and pain. (If you want to read my bio, go to this website and click “Meet Wendy”. I know whereof I speak!)
OK, Genius. Tell me HOW I’m supposed to be happy again after what’s happened to me.
Fine! I will! There are five steps, five secrets. I call them “secrets” because like most secrets, they’re not obvious. Not obvious, but incredibly simple. I learned these the hard way – I researched them when I was so far below Ground Level that just breathing felt like too much work. I applied these and plenty of others to my own formerly-miserable life, trashed the ones that were stupid, kept the ones that made a difference for me. Now I’m sharing them with you. Ready?
1. It’s a friggin’ choice.
I hate this one most of all! I have every right to be miserable and feel sorry for myself and the junk life has thrown at me. And so do you. But if even one little ol’ part of you wants to be happy again, ever, you have to say, “I choose to be happy.” Cuz that’s what will lead you to do your homework, test these and other things you’ll learn about how to get happy again, and start to push yourself through this. No one else can make you happy but you.
2. There is no Rescuer coming.
I don’t have anything against religion, men riding white stallions or guys in capes. Really I don’t. But frankly, I figured out long, long ago that even God only helps those who help themselves. Sitting around waiting for your next welfare check isn’t the same thing as figuring out what you can do to get your life put back together. It’s your life. Every day you screw around waiting for Ed McMahon to knock on your door and hand you a big cardboard check is one more day wasted. (‘Specially since he’s dead now!) Take inventory of what you’ve got left – skills, options, health, vision, the ability to hear, a good mind, friends, a place to live, knowing how to type or cook or knit, fresh air, online access or whatever. Figure out ways to use it to your own best advantage. Starting now, not in the morning. I know several people in chronic pain and with severe disabilities who run multimillion dollar companies by using their minds and their sense of drive. (Check out my friend: www.WMitchell.com)
3. Get over yourself.
I know. That’s mean. It’s like I’m a bully. But what I’m trying to say is this: if you want to be happy, you have to stop being so darn narcissistic, focusing so much energy on your life and your problems. Start looking for solutions. Start looking for what ELSE is going on around you. Start practicing empathy – looking at other people’s problems and letting your heart reach out to them. Or heck, go serve the poor or the sick or walk through the cancer ward or park yourself in the worst part of some inner city and see how those people live. You’re not the only one suffering. That’s both comforting AND a wake-up call.
4. Find six things every day that you’re grateful for.
Doesn’t matter if anyone else thinks those things matter. Clouds. A jar of pennies. The cute baby you saw in a stroller today. Your TV works and you’re paying the electric bill. Your whole body hurts…except for your eyelids. WHAT isn’t important. THAT you are grateful is. It starts to melt the ice in your heart and pretty soon, if you keep it up every day, you’ll tip your own scales toward happiness. Odd how that works, but try it. It’s free!
5. Stop comparing.
A friend asked me today what it would take for me to feel successful in 20 years, looking back at my life. I instantly quipped, “I’d need to have become Oprah, Tony Robbins and Mother Teresa all rolled into one!” We laughed, but truth is, that’s what it would take for me to think I’d hit the ball out of the park. Who do you compare yourself with? We’ve gotta stop. The more we compare ourselves to others we think are “better” than we are, the more less-than we feel. Do as I say, not as I do.
It’s an inside job, this happiness stuff.
It’s a game we play with ourselves. When I was a little girl, sometimes I played checkers with myself. Amazingly, I sometimes won and sometimes lost to my stuffed rabbit “Bunny Boy”. It all depended on my mood. Life is like Bunny Boy’s skill at checkers – you get to choose when you win and when you lose. We all get dealt a bad hand at times. What are you going to do about it? Play to win or walk away a sore loser?
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37 thoughts on “Five Secrets: How To Be Happy Again”
I love #6. I swear that if I were to become President of the US, I’d still feel like a failure compared to Abraham Lincoln. Such self-destructive thinking is what I’m now realizing has to stop.
Brent – I’m EXACTLY the same way! So exhausting, isn’t it? I wonder what it would feel like for you to just give up your self-flagellation for one whole day?
(errr….. #5. I won’t compare myself to people who can count and type….)
#3 I hate it! But since you explained it, I now understand that is totally me! No matter how much I remind myself there are others worse off or how many things I’m grateful for, it doesnt help when things are flying at me left and right! Solutions! I spend too much energy focused on problems and not enough on solutions! Thank you Wendy! You’re a gem and a true inspiration!!!
Great to hear, Renee!
Wishing you peace, love and joy,
I try very hard to live by the principles in #3. I succeed most of the time but it is difficult when you are surrounded by people who just do not see the big picture, and that whine incessantly about how they were so put upon and so broken by their lives.
I find it really hard to be patient with these truly narcississtic people because I just want to shake them and say WAKE UP…..IT IS NOT ALL ABOUT YOU!!!!! There is an entire world that turns independently of you and your self imposed dramas. GET OVER YOURSELF is what I say all the time to them under my breath.
It’s my experience of the biggest narcissist in my life that when I give him ANY kind of attention – negative, positive, trying to reform him, whatever – it feeds his incredible, bottomless need. I find myself more peaceful when I don’t try to shake anyone up! ha ha! You’re brave to try! If you figure it out, tell me what you did!!!!
wishing you love, joy and peace,
#1 – even though it’s my choice to choose, it is still hard to do, because right now it feels like I am leaving someone behind. Maybe just more time. But I think I know I need to choose the ‘happy’ to live my life, because that is they way we were living our lives, they way he would want me to finish living my life.
Valerie, you are SO right! It IS very, very hard to do. Most simple things are, I’ve noticed. Time AND staying conscious of how you’re choosing in each moment are the critical parts of the equation. Otherwise, it’s super-easy for us to get into habitual sadness.
Wishing you love, joy and peace,
Zena Welk says:
Both hubby and I feel a great sense of emptiness a huge hole in our heart. Our great g’kids whom we were super close to were taken to Yemen for an entire year – just out of our life – tryin’ to keep this short – our “granddaughter” gave her children to her ex who just happened to be taking a trip to his country (Yemen) and figured he would take the children with him. There is not a day we don’t think of him, at first we were walking basket cases – still hard to look at their pictures and or video -. There is such a huge part missing. We do have the option to speak with them which we have but it still does not lessen the heartbreak. Hoping as time goes on we will feel better about this. But 2 children were taken who grew up from day one in America.
Zena, do you mean they will not be coming back?!?! I read a book about a first generation Yemeni-American woman to whom this happened when she was 15 or so – they married her to a guy and shipped her back to him and that was it! I’m so terribly sorry!
Zena Welk says:
Wendy, They will be coming back in a year, we are hoping for less than a year. I highly (hoping) doubt the father would do that we know him. Now I am worried.
I always have such a hard time with these kind of tips and/or blogs/articles because I know the writer isn’t without a place to live, a car or a job with children to support. So, I find it very hard to apply them to my life when I feel so stuck and just telling myself to “choose” to be happy, although I have tried, doesn’t help.
You’d be surprised what I’ve been through, Tracy, I’ve no doubt. I’ve been in all those situations, although not always simultaneously. But yes, this is when you must apply them most – it’s forcing your mind to believe in a better today. Not tomorrow, not next year. You have to force yourself to look for the light when you are in the darkest hours. Really!
Wendy, I just read your story and I feel so embarrassed. You have been through so much. I don’t know how I would have made it.You truly are an inspiration. I guess I take some comfort in knowing that you understand that everyone feels their pain at 100% no matter what the pain comes from. I need to figure out how to get unstuck and make a life for myself and my children. What I am doing is not living. What is the hardest is being so alone without any friends or family at all. It’s lonliness at it’s deepest. I will keep reading here and try to find a better way. My kids deserve more and so do I and no one can do it but me.
Wendy please help me, my girlfriend just dumped me because she has met someone else and now my heart is in pain, I can’t eat or sleep because this thing is killing me. I’m not sure whether to delete her on my facebook or to wait for her I really love her..please help
I’m posting a blog on this topic this week! I hope it helps you – I wrote it for you!
I relate to #3. Since I’m young I tend to compare myself with my classmates who’ve found work. I’m still struggling and looking. It’s like a ripple effect I try to avoid them, so, I won’t hear about there jobs but feel lonely because I can’t relate. Every day is a battle. I just pray for them and pray for myself. Something will come.
You are wise beyond your years! “Praying” for them and yourself is the BEST thing you can do. Come back and let us know when you’ve landed that great job you deserve!
I think I love you Wendy : ) …. The world has become sooo narcissistic and I actually spent the last 5 years of my life with a narcissist that ended with her realizing that she actually likes women more then men! Yep….she switched! ….lost everything spiritually, mentally, financially…everything! In only two months away from who I call the Antichrist : )I have realized how co-dependant I was and discovered respect for myself….since then…I am very grateful for my health, friends, family and the success of my business that has done a 180….you are right! It starts with attitude! I don’t think I will ever feel sorry for myself again. Thanks for saying it the way it needs to be said! Everyone is responsible for themselves and thier own happiness and success. Cheers!
Love you too, Rob! ha ha! Thanks! Yes, sometimes the breakup of a familiar relationship or pattern alerts us to the fact that life MUST change and we are the only ones who can do it, huh?
Wishing you love, joy and peace,
Wendy, after living in the “pity party of one” going on in my head all week, because of all the stuff and responsibilities and things that I can only fix. Reading your article more than makes sense. They ALL just make sense, now I know it won’t be easy, I’m the worst offender at all of them but mostly #5, comparing and “wondering why them & not me, why are they so lucky and I’m not”. I’m self doubting, and the worst on myself, I’m not even a friend to myself on most days lately. Thank you for the wake up call, I’m printing these out and having them up so I can read & practice them everyday. Thank you x
Hey there MsChief (cute pseudonym!)
I think it’s human nature to always assume we’re got it worse than others. It’s a lot of work to learn how to think positively, esp if you were raised with negative people, but you CAN do it. I started by just noticing the negative thoughts in my head, then after I got over the shock of how many there are, I decided I didn’t want them anymore. I’m still weeding them out all these years later, but there are LOTS fewer. Like weeding a garden – catching the little buggers before they spread their seeds!
Wishing you love, joy and peace,
Great article, I really get a lot out of your website. Sometimes I feel like I never learned the basics growing up and find myself stumbling along, baffled by life…Reading your blog helps me grow up and deal. Thanks for a new perspective!
I feel like we ALL keep learning to “grow up and deal”! I know I do!
Thanks for sharing….I’ll try my best. The first one is always the hardest…
I agree, Ruby!
This is soo true, I wish there could be one day without all the worries and caring about what people thought about you all the time
You raise an interesting point. There seems to be a sliding scale about how much we care about what others are thinking of us. For instance, you probably don’t care at all what some random person passing you on the sidewalk thinks, but you might care very much what your family member or close friend does. It’s easy to not care what strangers are thinking, if you realize that almost everyone is just as neurotic as you and me! But when it comes to family, at least in my case, it helps to breathe and really stay deeply focused on who I authentically am. When I like myself, I am less concerned about how others see me.
What do you think about that idea?
Leyla Preissinger says:
I’m amazed by everything you’ve been through and you continue to remain positive.
I took pride in my virginity until I woke up to a my friend and prom date taking advantage of me while I slept. He did stop but I already felt violated. I decided then my first time would be on my terms and I gave it to someone who wasn’t worthy. I ended up getting pregnant at 18 and having my daughter at 19 while on birth control pills. My mom wanted me to have an abortion and threatened to kick me out if the house if I didn’t. I planned on going to live with a Christian group during my pregnancy because I knew I was keeping my daughter. When my mom found out my plans to leave, she decided to let me stay but I felt like a disappointment and a burden. During my pregnancy, I learned a lot about my daughter’s biological father; he was an addict and he was abusive. His family suffered from various mental illnesses and was completely dysfunctional. After my daughter’s 2nd birthday, her father kicked me in my back, three me on the bed and began choking me all because I discovered he was cheating. I decided then that I didn’t want my daughter to end up with a man like this and think this was okay. When he found out I was dating someone else I’d get death threats or he threatened to take Camille away from me. Camille’s father was not interested in being in his daughter’s life until I met my husband. Chris and I hit it off fast and were inseparable. He came over every evening after work and helped Camille with homework and let her win at Candy Land. We dated 6 months when I found out I was pregnant and a month later he proposed. Camille began calling Chris ‘daddy’ and Camille’s biological father became jealous. Upset because he still viewed me as his property, he threatened to kill us all and cocked a gun over the phone to prove he was serious. I’m not the only woman he has stalked, threatened, or abused. At that point I wouldn’t allow him to see Camille. He did end up taking me to court but till this day he has no parental rights and is required to pay child support. I believed if I raised Camille in a certain environment and provided her with a normal home life she would not take after her father’s side if the family. In middle school she began acting out and in 7th grade she brought a pocket knife to school to let other kids know not to mess with her, she went to alternative school, she pierced her lip, was suspended for fighting, and she attempted suicide. She was diagnosed with depression, bipolar, and oppositional defiant disorder. We were lost because she didn’t experience any trauma and she wasn’t bothered by her father not being in her life. She has always said that while she has a bio dad her real dad is the one who is there for her everyday. And while my husband isn’t her biological father I sometimes forget that he wasn’t a part of creating Camille and being there when I delivered her. And more importantly, he feels like she is his child. We sought help the help of psychiatrists and therapists after Camille’s suicide attempt. Her attempt caught us completely off guard and to this day she admits nothing triggered her drastic attempt. For three years we thought her depression and behavior issues were under control. This summer things went downhill fast. Camille began hanging out with a bad group but presented them to us as good kids. She ran away from home and was living with a family in the neighborhood. The mother was a lot like Honey Boo-Boo’s mom and had several adopted kids living under her roof. My husband and I took a tough love approach. We took Camille’s car, cell phone, and only allowed her a few pieces if clothing. Tough love didn’t work because she shoplifted what she wanted, got old phones from friends and spent her days and nights walking the neighborhood doing drugs and drinking. It killed me to see her that desperate and realize she would never come home on her own. During that week, I had to force myself to eat and nothing brought me pleasure. I felt like a shell or a zombie and that no one could know the hell we were going through. I decided to make her come home and pulled her out of bed early on a Saturday morning. When we got home she was angry, she threatened to run away the first chance she got or one morning I’d find her cold-dead body. We took her to a psychiatric facility and had her admitted. Three years ago I researched Turn-About Ranch and believed she needed treatment. My husband was in denial and believed we could handle this as a family. We are not rich and had to make some big sacrifices to get her there. She did well in her program and has only been home for a couple if weeks. I am scared of the unknown and I am a worrier. I feel like whatever has happened to me; physical and sexual abuse I can handle but what I can’t handle is losing my daughter. For the past four months I’ve been a moody person because I feel most have never had these experiences and people just don’t understand if they haven’t been through it. After reading your story; I realize I could have it worse and I should be thankful for these experiences (even the crappy ones) because I am learning these lessons through my child and they have humbled me.
Thank you Wendy for sharing your secrets. I will surely start applying them to my daily life moving forward! “already have it printed” (”,) It brings great comfort knowing that what I’ve been through and eventually had to deal with and work through, someone somewhere has been through the same thing and finally there is someone that I can relate to, Who Understands….. Much love Wendy!
Thanks so much, Cole! I’m glad you find comfort in what I write.
Love and best wishes for the new year,
I love number four. My mother and I had a rough relationship in the past. Expecially in my teens. I was addopted and had a lot of resentment towards my birth mother for abandoning me. My mother I have now unfortunately got the blunt of that resentment.
I woke up this morning and thought about my mom. Over the past four years we’ve grown very close. After realizing my “abandonment issues” and recognizing my problems as my own, I’ve accepted the amazing woman I call mom, not only as my mother. But my best friend!
Anyways. I’m 25 now and have alot to be greatful for. I texted my mom this morning explaining my gratitude. So, now I’ve got two things to be greatful for and its only 7 am. Mom….and your humourous…but very good advice. Thank you.
Wendy Keller says:
I love what you wrote! How many of us females have/had “difficult” relationships with our mothers. It took a long time for me to heal mine, too.
Then one day, we figure out all females are on the same trail, just as different stages of the journey.
Makes a big difference, doesn’t it?
Your story about reconnecting with your mom is inspiring. Thanks for sharing!
Hi Wendy – I first responded to this in July 2012, and look at me I made it to March 2014! Through all these times, you have been a very positive inspiration to me, I think we HAVE to make the choice to be happy/go forward/let sunshine in/realize that pain belongs to everyone else too – to just smile. Never a day, hardly an hour happens that the loss of my husband isn’t in my thoughts, but I realized that I wanted to continue to be the person I was, and maybe even more. Any loss strengthens you and you REALLY begin to realize how little time we have here to make this a happy life. We all have our private little ‘backpack’ of pain, but with your help through these years I can look forward and backward with a more meaningful smile. Thank you!
Congratulations! You’re doing it! That’s AWESOME! So glad to hear you’re doing better and better. And thank you for sharing your wisdom with my dear readers.
Thank you for writing this note. I’m so pleased you’ve found value in the work I’m doing here. It means SO much to me that you took time to tell me. Your post brought instant tears of gratitude to my eyes.
Much love and continued good wishes,