We have been learning a lot about the addictive power of negative thoughts this week, and frankly given the power that positivity has had in my life, it is hard to admit that I am still one that can easily be drawn to that dark under current all too easily.
As Doreen and I have been prepping for our 30 Days of Happiness event, we have been holding many conversations, looking over research, and frankly having quite a few revelations about ourselves. The amount of “Aha!” moments I have had in the past week and a half have left me a little dizzy and slightly off kilter, to be honest. But this journey we are taking into self discovery is pretty amazing, and realizing that intuitively we have been able to find ways to cope with life’s difficulties in ways that have preserved our hope has been eye opening and rewarding. Hopefully, you are recognizing those same bits of self wisdom in yourself, too.
Something that struck me was the idea that 50% of our happiness is determined by our genetics. A full half of how happy we will ever be comes not from our level of success, the money we make, the people we surround ourselves with, but from our own unique gene pool. In my case, I have some great genes to work with and I am lucky for that. But I also have family traits that include depression, addictive personalities, grudge holders, and Debbie Downers.
I have worked really hard to look for the good in each situation presented to me, to find that one thing that I can use to build from. At first it began as more of a “Fuck you, I’m going to prove this can’t break me”, which has it’s merits in survival mode. And then it began to morph more into “If this is how it is, and I have to live with it, what can I get from it?” Today I “mine for the silver lining” and my kids and I refer to everything, good times and challenging times, as “Adventures”. I made a conscious decision to change my perspective, to look for the blessing inside the curse.
Truthfully, this process of changing perspective started with my mother when I was a child. I guess I presented outwardly as a bubbly child, would play with my brother and friends when we were out, but after a long day of childhood adventure when my dad would arrive home and ask how our day went, no matter how many great things we had done or experienced, I focused on the one bad thing of the day. Instead of “We spent the day with our friends playing at the farm, climbing on the hay and feeding calves and then decorated cookies after lunch”, my dad heard “I stepped into a puddle and got my new sneakers dirty”. This became a pattern, and my mother was worried that this would be my life. She was reminded of her own mother, who would focus on the bad things of the day. So she instituted a new rule at dinner, I could still tell my “daily tragedy” but I also had to tell three good things that happened that day. She told me one of her great moments of success was when I stopped at a puddle in the parking lot, pointed to the oily layer on top, and said “Mommy, look at the pretty melted rainbow!” Pretty amazing what that change in perspective can do for you. When you change the lens you look through, the whole picture takes on a new look.
My backstory includes being molested as a child, surviving rape, and several abusive relationships. I viewed myself as a victim, as dirty and worthless for a very long time. My low self worth from the early traumas made my choices in relationships continue a pattern that would reinforce that self view. Receiving professional help through counseling helped me to change my self portrait from victim to survivor. By changing my own perspective, and accepting that these events have worked to forge me into the woman I have become, I have experienced an explosion in self growth.
Because I no longer feel that I have to hide from my past, I have become a mentor to several young women who have suffered similar issues, grown deeper friendships, have grown closer to my Mom and Dad (telling them the truth recently after hiding the molestation for over 30 years), volunteered with organizations working with Veterans and children in the hopes that I can give a “purpose to my pain”.
My strength has come from my struggles, and the fact that I never lost the ability to search for that silver lining. My hope is that we can help you this month discover your happy, make the most of your genetic 50%, and help give you some ideas on how to mine your own silver linings!