Recent brain research seems to indicate that the largest portion of our happiness level is hardwired, the smallest portion related to the current conditions of our lives and a surprisingly good amount by the way we choose to think.
My life experience bears this out. The more I allow my thoughts to dig into a rut of self-pity, the more miserable I am, and the more convinced I become that I will never be happy again.
Thankfully (Ha! Get it?) I learned the choice of gratitude. I learned that even when things are really truly difficult, I could focus my thoughts on the things in my life that I loved and was grateful for. This did not immediately change my outer circumstances, but it did ease my inner misery. And happily, when I was not so miserable, I made better choices and helped my outer circumstances as well.
My younger brother got married recently, after a 20 year period of singleness to a wonderful, intelligent, loving woman. Weddings can bring up difficult feelings in me, since my own marriages had been so spectacularly unsuccessful. As these feelings arose, I gave them an inner nod–“Ah, yes, old friend, I remember you. But today is not about you. It is a celebration of joy for those who have found a loving mate. We will visit another time.” And I looked about the room full of family and friends celebrating this happy day.
I noticed my aunt, widowed now five years after being married for fifty. She was sitting alone at a table, as all the others had gotten up to dance. I went to her and commented that for us single gals, these celebrations have bittersweet moments. She agreed. “Your uncle loved to dance. I miss him very much.” I asked about her grandchildren. She asked what my kids were doing in school. We commented on the dancers and the music. We embraced.
If I had sat at my own table, in my own pity party, I would have missed that connection to my aunt.
I choose joy.