I have written before that I am a scrapbooker. Almost all of our major events have been highlighted in our family albums. Along with the albums, I have boxes and boxes of duplicate photos. Recently, I decided it was time to go through them all and save only our favorites. In the process, I came across pictures from when I was pregnant with my first son. It occurred to me that this pregnancy was the happiest time in my whole life. I can go right back to the feelings of joy and abundance I felt then. It was a period filled with hope and excitement. Everything had a silver lining. If I was tired, I was supposed to be. If I was energetic, I was supposed to be. If I was craving a milkshake, well then I better get one. Every bubble, thump or poke in my belly had meaning. Being pregnant was sheer bliss. Everything about it was positive. Conversations came easy. Strangers were helpful and pleasant. It was a special time in my life and a special time in my marriage; it was all around spectacular.
Thinking back on this time of ultimate joy and happiness prompted me to think of other times when I felt thoroughly happy. I thought of vacations I have taken with my husband, when we have been relaxed and playful, and not at all preoccupied by work; when we have had lots of time to read and be outdoors, when we have had plenty of sleep and delicious, healthy food. I thought about when I was a child and I went camping with my grandparents in the redwoods; or the times my brother and I went for long bike rides with my dad; or the Friday nights when my brother and I were little, snuggled on the couch with my mom to watch Dukes of Hazard–always with Pepsi and popcorn to add to the fun. I think about my family now and the days we spend at the beach; when we take our boys to the movies or out for bowling or miniature golf and they can’t stop grinning from ear to ear. Soon a flood of memories came back that were all of really happy moments in my life, past and present. Remembering these events made me feel like I was glowing inside. The joy I feel recounting these memories is as real now as it was when the events actually occurred. This has been documented. The brain does not know the difference between a real or an imagined event. Whether I am experiencing joy in the moment, or recounting joy from twelve years ago, endorphins are sent from my brain throughout my body.
This is when I realized something. I have a happy, joyous life right now. But, I do get caught up sometimes in the day-to-day minutiae. I know we all have that tendency. Sometimes, one can become so wrapped up in the minutiae that one’s existence begins to feel flat. And sometimes, feeling “flat” becomes the norm and happiness, or joy, is a faded memory that seems out of reach. Around that time, someone comes along and recommends making affirmations about the life you want to have. The advice is always the same: feel how good it is to have what you want as though it is already here, or accomplished. This is how you create the life you want; not by whining, complaining or numbing out, but by positive visualization and right action. A small problem can occur, though, when you no longer remember what true happiness or joy feels like. And so you read these affirmations to yourself and you try to imagine how you should feel if your goal comes to life but there is a major disconnect. There is a disconnect between what you “should” feel and what you actually know how to feel. What to do then?
I recommend sitting in a quiet place for several minutes over the next few days and going back in your memory bank for supremely joyful events. Write them down, make a list. Once you get started, these memories will come flooding back. Once you have a list, look it over and feel the joy you had in each of those moments. Hold that feeling there and say to yourself, “Ah ha! This is what joy feels like. This is it. I remember!” Notice the sensations you experience in your mind and body as you acquaint yourself with these memories. Now, each day, read over your list of happy, joy-filled moments and feel the joy again. This is referred to as going to your ”happy place.” While still feeling the sensations of joy, think about the life you have today, and the life you want. You will notice first that you are grateful for who you are and what your life is at this moment. Next you will notice that your goals, or affirmations, come alive and begin to really feel possible. Do this each day and your sense of wonder will be restored. Your heart will open up again and swell with joy. Most important, simply feeling good will become easier.