Thursday, August 7, 2008

It's Okay to Be Happy!

There is a speech that I give called “It’s Okay to Be Happy.” I first performed this speech during our Toastmasters’ contests, and it is my favorite speech. Today, I’d like to go into a little more detail on happiness.

Have you ever noticed how being happy seems to get a bad rap? It’s in our Declaration of Independence “… that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” So, why is it that when someone appears to be happy, people tend to come down on them, and why is it that there are so many people who are anything but happy?

People who know me know that I am basically a happy person. I have a very happy-go-lucky personality. I pretty much smile and laugh all the time. I don’t know how many times I’ve had people say to me, “Are you always like this?” “You’re just too perky.” “How can you be so happy?” Yadayadayada.

I do want to make it very clear that in no way do I consider myself any better (or worse) than anyone else. I still have my down moments, and there are times when I get so down and depressed that it’s all I can do to get out of bed in the morning. I’m just as human as anyone else. One thing that I’ve learned on my spiritual journey is that we have a choice. We can either choose to be happy….or not. We don’t have to be happy with our circumstances, but we can be happy in our circumstances. (Read that again, please.)

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of books written on the subject of happiness and how to be happy, and they’re flying off the bookshelves. But as a society, we still tend to have an issue with people being happy and/or acting happy.

One thing that really helps me in my choice to be (or act) happy is that I look at others around me who are having all kinds of heavy-duty-life-doo, and I realize how good I really do have it compared to some people. I learned to count my blessings. I choose to look at the good that is in my life and the good that is around me. And if/when I am having a really bad, depressing day and I can’t think of anything to feel blessed about, I start with the basics. I can see, hear, talk, walk, I have a roof over my head, a warm bed to sleep in, a car that runs well, food to eat, friends, pets, family….. If you start with the basics and build from there, by the time you’re done, you should have writer’s cramp.

There is one book I read that really made a very strong impression on me, and showed me how important it is to count our blessings. The book is called “Left to Tell” by Immaculee Iligabiza. Immaculee is a survivor of the Rwandan genocide. Most all her family, friends, and relatives were brutally murdered with hatchets. She was able to escape to a minister friend’s home where she and seven other women hid for three months in a small bathroom, three foot by four foot wide. The minister couldn’t even let his family members in the same house know they were in there. The bathroom was in his bedroom and he pushed a large movable closet in front of the door. Every day, hundreds of Hutu’s would go through the house looking for them. They couldn’t make a sound the whole time they were in hiding. The minister slipped them food when he could. When Immaculee went into the bathroom she weighed 115 pounds; when she came out, she weighed 65 pounds. The only thing that saw her through this horrific ordeal was her faith in God. She is now married, has two children, and is a spokeswoman for the United Nations in New York. I would highly recommend reading her story.

The point is, you can always find someone who has it worse off than you do. I used to keep a picture of Immaculee on my desk at work, and then when things got bad in the office, I would look at her picture and remember how good I really do have it. It worked.

I’ve been reading a lot of spiritual books lately (as well as listening to CD’s), and a couple have really had an impact on my brain. Books by Jerry and Esther Hicks, and books by Mike Dooley. (Mike’s web is at TUT.com. I would recommend checking it out and signing up for his “Notes from the Universe.”) These books are very positive and really help to get into a happy frame of mind. They stress the importance of keeping nothing but good and positive thoughts in your mind because you will attract what you are thinking. And it’s not just about the thoughts, but about the feelings you are feeling with those thoughts. It’s okay to be happy! It’s okay to feel good! We should strive for those frames of minds constantly throughout our days and our lives. Laugh! Giggle! Dance!

It’s also important to know who we really are. We are children of the Universe (God, Allah, Spirit, or whatever name you choose.) Know and believe that you are magnificent! You are a walking miracle of life! A friend of mine, J.D. Hart, has a Tennessee Lottery commercial currently running, and at the end of it, he says, “Harness your inner awesomeness!” (I just love that!) And don’t let anyone tell you that you are anything less!

Also watch the words that you speak; not only to yourself, but to other people. Gossip is poison. Bad-mouthing is poison. Constantly complaining is poison. What people don’t realize is that when someone is gossiping, bad-mouthing, or constantly complaining, it reflects more on the person speaking the words than the person they are speaking about. I’ve made it very important to me not to be around gossip or that kind of negativity. I remember when I was working and when someone would come into my office to gossip or bad-mouth someone, I would then say something positive about that person in return. Or I’d try to get the person to see the bigger picture. Soon enough, people learned just not to speak negatively about anyone or anything around me.

Again, that doesn’t mean I think I’m better than anyone in the least. I’m not perfect. (I like to think of all of us as perfectly imperfect. Grin.) I just choose the way I want to think. I choose the words that come out of my mouth. I want to build people up; not tear them down. I read once in a book about near death experiences where the author who had an NDE say that the one question he was asked after he crossed over was, “Did you love enough?” When I get to the end of my life and I cross over and get asked that question, I want to be able to say that I did my best.

Make happiness, joy, laughter, and a whole lot of good feelings a priority in your life. You’ll find that your life circumstances will tend to follow the way you think. It’s Universal Law.

For a list of my favorite websites, please see the right-hand column of the blog. Here you will find websites to some of my favorite authors: Mike Dooley, Sharon Warren, Jerry and Esther Hicks, Byron Katie, Neale Donald Walsch, and more.

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