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My Rules for Happiness

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What brings happiness? What brings delight? What habits lead to more of both? These are questions that I’ve been mulling over lately at First Ourselves, my blog. 


Happiness implies joy. It implies comfort and satisfaction. It implies a framework of self care: a foundation that enables you to soar to the lofty heights of joy and bliss. How do you create this framework? Here’s my answer: care for yourself as well as you care for your children.  


How do you treat your kids? That’s how you should treat yourself. And if you’re not treating yourself with the same compassion, kindness, and consideration, that’s a red flag that you need to endow your habits with greater grace and respect.


Are you dubious? Think of all the nutty things you’ve done to yourself that were really punishments in disguise: forcing yourself to wear too small clothing when you’d gone up a size; not buying yourself clothing until you lost weight or reached some other milestone; restricting your diet to a few chosen foods; skipping meals; omitting your wants from the family budget; offering to do a chore or errand that you detest; skimping on sleep, rest and other basic care. Would you treat your child that way? No.


So how do you treat your children? Here’s how I treat mine. Likewise, here’s how I treat myself: 


  1. When you’re hungry, get a snack. This makes me think of a quip by Christiane Northrup: “You will achieve enlightenment much faster with stable blood sugar.”
  2. Eat vegetables. We need healthy food to feel our best. We don’t feed our children junk all day long; why do we do that to ourselves? That being said….
  3. Leave room for dessert. There’s a time to celebrate and enjoy a treat.
  4. Rest when you’re tired. When our toddlers are cranky, we put them down for a nap. When they’re worn out at the end of a day, we tuck them into bed. Simple, but it works wonders for a calm disposition.
  5. Play. When’s the last time you did something just for fun?
  6. Take a recess when you need a break. Why do we expect adults to work for eight, nine, or ten hours straight (with lunch usually eaten at a desk) without a break? Why do we spend so much of our lives inside, away from the glory of the outdoors? I know that when I’m inside out, and my kids are cranky and picking on each other, a twenty minute romp outside will dissipate said foul mood rather quickly.
  7. When you’re feeling frustrated, take a time out. When we’re at our wits end, some physical (and mental) distance can be a great help. We all need solitude and time alone.
  8. Use your words when you want something. Learning how to tell people what we like—and what we dislike—is a valuable tool. Who said that if someone really loves us, they’ll know what we want? Not in this world: we have to let them know.
  9. Say you’re sorry when you’ve hurt someone. Perfection doesn’t occur on this planet. We forgive ourselves, as we forgive others. We forgive others, as we forgive ourselves.
  10. It’s only spilled milk. Most mistakes are not the end of the world; for your children, or yourself.
  11. You don’t have to go to every party. An invitation is not an obligation. I am careful to plan for leisure time for my children, which means picking and choosing activities—-even parties and “fun” things. Too much activity and too little rest makes for a cranky child, and a cranky adult, too.
  12. Daydream. Hope, dream, and dawdle; are lives are not just about productivity.
  13. Support yourself during transitions. My children’s worst moments come during transitions—when we’re transitioning between one place and another (school and home, for example), or when we’re navigating an internal transition (a growth spurt, a change in routine, or a change in seasons.) I am no different. This is the time for extra kindness and compassion, towards yourself, and others.
  14. Feel your emotions. When my children are mad, I let them be mad. When they’re sad, I let them be sad. How often do I offer myself the same consideration? Hmmm…..
  15. Follow your own path. This is a doozy for me. I’ve lived by others’ rules, expectations and guidelines for years, even if those rules were only in my head. The first time I heard the idea that I could have what I want, that life doesn’t have to be drudgery, I found it heretical. How many of us dare to believe that how we really, really want to live and what we really, really want to do is possible? By contrast, how many of us brush aside our greatest hopes and dreams with a flippant, “Not in this lifetime?” The greatest gift I can give my children is the belief that their dreams and hopes are both valid and attainable. But that is also the greatest gift I can give myself: permission to follow the beat of my own internal drummer, as far fetched and high reaching as it may be. Dear reader, that is also the greatest gift you can give yourself.

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