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Over the weekend, I read an interview of an actress. I honestly can’t even remember who it was or why she was being interviewed. In fact, all I remember is one line. She said, “My sister and I have a secret code. Any time things aren’t going great, we look at each other and wink. This reminds us to choose happiness — no matter what.”
As I was going to bed that night, I thought of what that actress had said and thought, “what makes me happy?” “A freshly made bed” popped into my head as I slid into my own. The smile that thought put on my face meant that I ended my day happy. Actually, really happy.
The next morning, I watered my plants as I do every Sunday morning. As I did, I noticed myself smiling as I carefully cared for my tiny potted succulents in my kitchen window. Each plant is different – some tall, some round, some spiky. This makes a cool silhouette when the sun shines in. Two are blooming right now. Plus they’re in these really pretty, colorful pots that I adore. I thought to myself, “This little window garden makes me happy.” And, just as it did the night before, the smile that thought put on my face made me even happier.
Noticing happiness was starting to feel like a really good idea.
Don’t laugh, but my happiness got the best of me. I decided to share that moment and a picture of my garden on Facebook. My post got a bunch of “likes” almost immediately, which led me to choose to spend a week choosing to not only notice happiness but to share it as well.
I’m so glad I did. Each day, I found myself noticing dozens of things that made me happy. I sifted through them – Eggo waffles, my yoga mat, my new ponytail holder that doesn’t slip, hiking with my dogs, most anything that sparkles, a super hot shower, getting mail – for the one I’d choose to share. Just because I was looking, my life suddenly felt flooded with things that make me happy. This made me (obviously) feel very happy.
A yoga practice teaches us about the power of perspective. I have found over the years that I have a natural tendency to remember the posture that went wrong rather than the twenty postures that went right. This is actually a documented human phenomenon. Negative thoughts or experiences stick like Velcro while positive thoughts and experiences slip away. My daily practice not only revealed this tendency to me, it has showed me that I have the choice to change it.
I can roll up my mat each day disappointed about the posture that went wrong. And, trust me, there is always one that goes wrong. Sometimes rather spectacularly. Or I can choose differently. I can focus on all the postures that went right. I can focus on how I great I feel simply because I practiced. Or, depending on what went wrong and how spectacularly, sometimes I can get a good laugh out of remembering my goof. It’s my choice.
Judith Hanson Lasater, in her book, Living Your Yoga, writes that, “when we cling to one point of view, we limit our ability to see what is before us. Enlightenment, in fact, is nothing more and nothing less than a radical change in perspective.” Changing perspective is like stepping back enough to pull loose the Velcro hold of our negative point of view. As we do, suddenly we’re able to see more. The negative thing doesn’t go away, but it shrinks in size so that we can see around it. And, in my experience, there is usually something around it that is worth a smile. Even if it’s just a small one.
This is exactly what we’re doing when we choose happiness. When we comb through out days looking for little moments that make us smile, we are deliberately, mindfully choosing to shift our perspective. In doing so, we are choosing to change our experience of our lives. This is a choice we will not regret.
Repeat after me: “I choose happiness.”