Happiness is a state of being we all seek, as if it’s something grand and majestic. We seem to structurally forget that happiness is actually hiding in the smallest of moments in life.
It hides in every choice we make and in every thought we think. Although we cannot always influence what happens to us, we surely can influence how we look at the things that happen.
Monday morning blues
Last Monday morning I decided to choose happiness. It was a conscious choice, and it took effort. But I chose it, because I didn’t like the alternative. As the events unfolded, I was living my Monday morning in two different scenarios at the same time. Both based on the same events, but both radically different.
There was the Monday morning where the weather was gray and rainy. I had to wake up at 6.30am in order to leave the house at 8.30am with my 2 months old son (getting ready and leaving the house takes slightly more time now, and one always needs to plan extra time for the unpredictable). We got to the train station on time only to notice that the train we were suppose to take was cancelled.
Traveling alone with a buggy is fine, as long as you catch a train with a low entrance. My next option was in half an hour, which was too late. So I took the next Intercity train (faster, but with steep steps, so not buggy proof), stressed whether someone would help lift my buggy in and out. Once in, I stood uncomfortably in the corridor for the entire journey, since the lady next to me was occupying the only seat. She was way too fixated on her Netflix to notice my struggles.
On this gloomy Monday the elevators were full, the wider entrance gates (good for moms and dads with buggies) to the subway train platforms did not work, people were grumpy and running me over. On this Monday I stood on the rainy platform witnessing full subway trains pass by, hoping the rain would stop and that I would fit into the next one.
All this effort just to have a cup of coffee with old colleagues!
Luckily there was an alternative, and luckily I only needed to change my thoughts to access it.
Finally a less crowded subway train arrived, and I fumbled in. At least my baby boy was still blissfully asleep. As I reached for my phone, I wanted to tell everyone about the EPIC HORRIBLE morning I was having. I wanted to recount all of the unlucky events I had faced, milk it to the bone and play the poor victim. My mind was busy making a story out of the morning, going over it again and again, and with every replay I felt worse and worse.
Until something within me stopped and asked – are you going to milk the past few minutes for the entire day? Are you going to let the last hour ruin the rest of your day? Are you going to arrive to your coffee date pissed off and angry, because your commute didn’t go as planned?
I decided not to.
Because there was also another kind of Monday hiding in it all. A Monday full of light, beautiful fall colors and fresh scent of rain. Sure, my train was cancelled, but it gave me the opportunity to practice asking for help. There was a lovely gentleman who helped me into the train with the buggy, and on his way out asked if I needed help again. There was another lovely human being who said ‘You go in first‘ when we were waiting for the elevator down to the station hall. Bless these people for shining their light on me, and why is it that we don’t whip out our phones to text about these kind of interactions to our friends?
On this Monday I had enough time and I arrived to my coffee date on time. I had a wonderful time with lots of hugs and laughter. On my way back I walked through a questionable neighborhood and saw two large men sitting in a small car in front of an apartment building. My initial reaction was to cross the street and pass the car from the rear, but I decided to stroll on by with confidence. One of the guys leaned out of the open passenger side window and comments: “Hello beautiful! Yes, I just had to say it.”
On that morning I decided to take it. So I smiled and concluded ‘what a fine Monday it is, and I AM beautiful!‘
Wire yourself for happiness
A podcast interviewing the founder of the World Happiness Summit tells us that we humans are wired for negativity. Positivity has no influence on human survival as such, but looking out for danger and possible things that could go wrong, has. This heritage still lives on today – when we have something negative happen, we want to share it with as many people as possible (this asshole did this to me, can you imagine!!), but when something positive happens (a kind stranger helped me today), we rarely say a word to anyone.
My Monday morning commute is a small example of the constant storytelling we do to ourselves. Because honestly, how many times a small, fleeting negative moment has stayed with us for the rest of the day? How many times have we milked an incident or a negative comment until everything else on that day felt negative too?
Wiring yourself for happiness doesn’t always come easy, it takes practice and focus like any new skill we are learning. The beauty is that it’s up to me to choose the thoughts I let in, and to choose the reality I get to live in. So you bet I will choose the best possible version for myself.
Originally published on Life as we think we know it in 2018.