Happiness: Mere happenstance or deliberate choice?

There is probably no holiday more stressful to divorced mothers or fathers than Mother's Day or Father's Day.

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  • “We cannot choose to be born, and we cannot opt out of death. Birth and death are constants for all people. But we can choose how to live.” David D. Ireland, PH. D.

  • There’s probably no holiday that is more stressful to the newly single mom or dad than Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. In this newly single state all the previous years’ celebrations are history. Now, new traditions have to begin — and if they don’t, everyone will be unhappy. But unhappiness doesn’t have to be the prevailing emotion come Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. Both moms and dads can find fresh ways to view this special day by intentionally creating memorable ways to bond and begin again. Learn to start over — happy.

  • In his book, “Secrets of a Satisfying Life,” Dr. David D. Ireland looks closely at statistical evidence that reveals the lifestyle choices of those individuals who consider themselves very happy. Bottom line, the happiest people are those who help others. In the wake of happy people, researchers have discovered similar characteristics shared by those who demonstrate consistent satisfaction with their lives. Included is the essential quality of developing a realistic perspective on life. The way in which life is seen and interpreted makes all the difference, so one must continually reevaluate personal perspective to ensure accuracy. While good and bad experiences and events happen to everyone, it is those who learn mastery in achieving a healthy perspective who live most happily.

  • Ireland recommends asking the following questions when difficulties arise.

  • 1. Am I responding impulsively?

  • 2. Is this the worst thing that can happen to me?

  • 3. What do I want my future to look like?

  • 4. How can I establish a strategy for happiness as part of the overall solution?

  • The author suggests this rule in response to any difficulty, warning that, “bad news cannot be responded to impulsively ... and a levelheaded response will help maintain a positive state of mind.” Further, Ireland notes that individuals must not make the mistake of equating positive thinking with happiness. Rather, “habits of happy people are deliberate responses that have successfully proven to meet their personal emotional needs.”

  • The author makes the telling statement that when one looks for the happy man; one will find him not in search of happiness. Instead, the happy man will be found building, writing, educating, growing — in other words, he will be making conscious choices on a moment-by-moment basis to enrich his life and the lives of those around him. Further, Ireland says, “Happiness can and is to be found in the measure of satisfaction one can find in the normal activities of life.” Rather than searching for the perfect job, mate, house, vacation, happy people see (and focus upon) the good amidst the flaws and the shortcomings (which flavor part of every aspect of life).

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  • Happy habits

    • Recognize and establish a reasonable threshold of satisfaction so that more experiences are deemed positive.

    • Embrace a hopeful outlook, “hopelessness is a coma of the soul.”

    • Develop a true portrait of who you are and who you are not, then work to achieve those dreams and goals within this informed framework.

    • Balance activity with regular periods of restoration.

    • Allow sincerity, vulnerability, and forgiveness their proper place in all relationships.

    • Don’t allow pain or past mistakes to paralyze, realize the future is a friend.

  • Happiness isn't an accident. As you learn to start over and make choices about new traditions to celebrate mothers and fathers, remember to be realistic and choose to be happy.

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Michele is the author of 12 books, and over 1,600 articles for publications HopeAfterDivorce.org and FamilyShare.com, Good Housekeeping and Single Parent Family.

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