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Tiny Wisdom: Choosing to Create Happiness

“Happiness depends upon ourselves.” ~Aristotle

Yesterday I wrote at Starbucks for the first time since my surgery, after my doctor cleared me to walk.

I felt an immense sense of relief to be outside my home, where I didn’t feel quite so isolated. And I was grateful for every nuance of that day—the fresh air, the feeling of life going around me, and the sense that somehow, I was part of it.

But the walk wasn’t easy. I get winded pretty quickly right now, and I simply don’t have a lot of energy.

I don’t yet feel like myself, mentally or physically—I’m occasionally lethargic, often distracted, and sometimes a little weak.

So yesterday I wondered how I might be able to see this feeling as a gift. What would it look like to embrace my current state instead of bemoaning it?

I decided that every time I needed to take a break—whether it was walking, or writing, or doing anything else—I’d notice and appreciate something beautiful around me.

And I’d vocalize it as often as possible.

While writing this tiny post, I complimented one woman on her colorful shirt, and told another man how lucky we were to get seats, since it was crowded yesterday.

I essentially created a joyful game out of something that could otherwise be frustrating. I may need to do everything more slowly by necessity; but I’m also consciously choosing to benefit from that need.

I admit this might be more challenging to apply to certain situations. It’s not always easy when you’re in pain or feeling despondent to find something good in it.

But maybe that’s something we can explore when we’re not feeling like our best selves: What would it look like to leverage what is to somehow better ourselves?

That might mean focusing on the little things that make a dark day brighter. It might be appreciating that we have people to lean on. Or it could be as simple as feeling grateful because this moment will eventually pass.

There will be times when we feel things that we likely would not choose. But we can always choose to do something good—in spite of our feelings, and maybe even because of them.

Photo by Nomadic Lass

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About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha. She is the author of the Tiny Wisdom eBook series (which includes one free eBook) and Tiny Buddha's Guide to Loving Yourself. She's also the co-founder of the eCourse Recreate Your Life Story: Change the Script and Be the HeroFollow @tinybuddha for inspiring posts and wisdom quotes.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • http://jaredakers.com/ Jared Akers

    Great realization about the power of changing our perspective.

    In the pre-awareness years, I was busy changing the world. I like to think about it in terms of when I worked in a restaurant. I learned that if I ran around with a ketchup bottle in my hand (looking busy and like I was going somewhere) people left me alone. I was uncomfortable just “being.”

    “All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.”
    - Blaise Pascal

    I have a sister who is always late, and it used to really get on my nerves. But as I changed my perspective and worked on self-awareness, I noticed a change on a seemingly insignificant day.

    Waiting – again – for my sister on her front porch, I felt the frustration start to rise. But I then realized how to use that moment to sit and meditate, to breathe in and smell the air. To be present and use those precious moments to connect with my inner self and the world. It was a real turning moment in my journey. As I can now be grateful for all moments.

    Having this circumstance in your life, forcing you to slow down, is a blessing and you are receiving it. Great “little” post, thanks for sharing!

  • Denisemiller

    I sometimes play a similar game with myself while walking to work. Every person I pass I notice something I “like” about them. It might be their shoes, or beautiful smile or way they hold their kids hand. For me, it is a good way to start the day with a positive outlook.

  • http://www.sweetandsage.com Sage

    There have been a few times in my life when I’ve been very unhappy at work. I play a game with myself where I pretend I have the greatest job in the world. Then I act as if it were true. It’s amazing how much this changes my outlook. I started finding good things about by job (even little things) and I became happier even though my circumstances didn’t change. You really do have to find happiness wherever you are.

    Glad to hear you’re making progress. :)

  • Marianne

    When I’m having a bad day, I try to be as nice as possible to others because I would not wish my day on them.  I give more compliments, more smiles and try to uplift others to counteract my unhappiness.  It is a fun game!

  • Dash4you

    The circumstances will always change. Drifferent types of pain. The option is with our attitude. Aging, family discord, misdiagnosis, financial instability are all some of the challenges in my life. Whats amazing is the shut-in anxious fearful neighbor taking me into her confidence by talking, my beautiful brindle minature dachshund coming to me after exploding into a long needed rage with primal scream, and the internet/Facebook presence with friends and uplifting writings just waiting to be found! There is always goodness in this world awaiting our discovery!

  • prestonc

    Have you yet had a feeling related directly to the cognizance that you have lost a tumor the size of a soccer ball? Do you feel any relief, or grief, or wonderment about that? Just curious. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1653932249 Mark B Hoover

    Amazing, the revelations we experience through painful times in our lives. It is as though we must go through an ordeal, like the labors of Hercules, in order to see ourselves or the world as it would be seen. I remember an old WWII veteran telling of his exploits on the battlefield; he became animated, his eyes sparkled with newly-stoked fires of life. He must never have felt as alive as he did in the arena, frighteningly aware of his mortality. “Death is there to keep us honest, and constantly remind us we are free.” [Dan Fogelberg]

    We buried my Mom this Tuesday. I now feel truly alone in this world. I am now in some ambiguous state, as you describe yourself. Lethargic. Withdrawn. Weak. I know I will pull through this, we all do. Yet, while I am here, I keep asking myself, “How can I use what I am experiencing right now to grow and
    evolve?” As if doing this for my Mother isn’t enough, I feel a compulsion to learn from it and share with others. After all, it is a way of living genuinely…and NOT getting back to business as usual. Pain. Learning. Growth. Summed up well by Anaiï Nin, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    So true–we will always have different challenges, and there will always be things to appreciate in their midst. That’s wonderful your neighbor confided in you–and your dog sounds adorable!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I’m so sorry for your loss Mark. What a beautiful way to evolve through this process and touch other people as well. I love what you wrote about living genuinely, and not getting back to business as usual. And I’ve also found lot of strength and insight in that Anais Nin quote. I’m sending lots of love your way!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Absolutely! I actually have a picture of the masses they took out, and the sheer size of it all just shocks me. I’ve looked at it quite a bit, in immense relief that it’s not inside me anymore. I’ve always experienced some tremendous relief from physical symptoms that were getting pretty bad right before the surgery–and I’m thrilled that my stomach is actually flat again. (I had a whole section of my wardrobe I couldn’t wear for months!) Even though the healing process is a bit challenging, I know I’ll never regret doing this. It was a smart choice for my health and overall well-being.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    What a great idea. =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    That’s a great way to create joy at work! I think sometimes we tune out good things once we’ve decided a situation is bad. It’s like we look for evidence to back up what we believe, and ignore evidence to the contrary. It’s a great idea to consciously choose to do the opposite!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    That’s a wonderful game! =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    That’s funny about your experience working in a restaurant. I’ve definitely been there before…trying to look busy so people would leave me alone. In retrospect I realize the irony: I was always trying to get people to leave me alone, while silently wishing I felt more connected.

    As for your story with your sister, I could relate to that as well! I am always punctual, and this is actually something I’ve worked on. Not because it’s a bad thing to be on time, but because I actually feel anxious sometimes if I am running late. So I’ve challenged myself to breathe into those moments and recognize there’s no need for fear or anxiety. If I’m sitting in traffic, I practice deep breathing and tell myself, “I needed this time.” It helps a great deal!

  • Lisalisa46

    I LOVED this article!  On the lighter side,  I have tried this very thing while waiting at the DMV in the past. One time, when the line was particularly long, i called BINGO, every time they’d call a person’s number.  I found that this got most people laughing. 

    Seriously though, this is very good advice to follow when things are scary, painful, seem bleak or merely boring – if only because, “these situations too, shall pass”. Attitude IS everything – along with knowing that we are all loved, at all times.  Thank Goodness the universe provides us with constant reminders of it’s beauty and a promise of continuing love.

  • Tkhudd

    Sometimes we need to slow down and look around.When your going 85mph you miss more than if your going 45 mph it’s pretty simple

  • Suzac29

    I NEEDED to hear this post today. Thank you!! :)

  • Eddieturner41

    Thank you, Lori for putting so much thought and work into writing these articles. There is one thing you might be more mindful of, that is the use of the egoistic term, “I”. When reading your work, some of us count to see how many words you can get in before referring to yourself. Look at the piece above, count and see how many times you refer to “I”. Please don’t stop writing, but consider this point. “I” thank you, Namaste

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    So true. It’s like taking the scenic route through life. =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I’m sure you brightened the day for a lot of people…the DMV isn’t always the happiest place to be! And I love what you wrote about attitude and knowing we are loved. =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome Eddie. I’m glad you enjoy them! And I appreciate that you shared your thoughts on the word “I.” I’m not sure that’s advice I’ll be able to accept, because a big part of my writing is sharing my own experiences, which inevitably requires personal pronouns. 

    When I first started writing for Tiny Buddha, I wrote anonymously for a number of months and never once wrote the word “I.” Then I realized I was doing myself and readers a disservice. I was preaching about ways to live life more wisely without having the courage to share my own trials and tribulations. I believe that doing so makes a positive difference, and that’s why I continue to write this way.

    Nonetheless, you’ve given me some food for thought. =)

  • http://twitter.com/cooperhill Chris Garby

    Thank you so much. This hit home for me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1653932249 Mark B Hoover

    Thank you, Lori. Looks like we’re partners in healing.

  • Ccmilo

    Thank you so much. Whenever I am having a hard day and need some uplifting I go to your website. Today a 4,000 lb engine fell on my fiancé and snapped his leg in half. I was so worried and couldnt stop crying. He is in recovery now and surgery went well. I am thankful and relieved that he is ok. This reminds me to not nag him for the simple things that really don’t matter. He matters. Our love matters. I am thankful that he is such a good man and need to not take him for granted. Little things like complementing your spouse or a perfect stranger when your having a not so good day just spreads love and goodness… And sometimes it’s contagious and people pay it forward. Don’t stress about trivial and mundane things so much…. After all that doesn’t really matter.

  • Cathy | Treatment Talk

    Hi Lori,

    Hope you are on the mend. I know surgery can slow us down, but when I had surgery two years ago, i tried to just enjoy the time. That lasted for about a week, and then I was antsy as well. I did learn the hard way to lay low, even when you think you are feeling better. It is frustrating, but how great that you are looking for ways to be positive. Thanks for a great post!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks Cathy. I am feeling a little better every day. Today I walked to get a pedicure without getting winded, which was nice! Thanks for sharing your story with me. I’m glad your surgery went well. =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I’m so glad your fiancé is okay and that his surgery went well! That must have been so scary for both of you. Thanks for this reminder to focus on what matters. Sometimes it’s tempting to get caught up in little things, but you’re right–we’re fortunate to have good people in our lives, and it’s a beautiful thing to spread love and goodness!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome!

  • MaLa SaHan

    it is worthwhile to note that we do not have to wait for a challenge to make us take notice of our reactions to what is happening at any moment, but as human beings we seem to respond with more attention when we are inconvenienced by a painful or otherwise unpleasant situation.  Taking notice of whatever and whoever is around us and sharing this via a comment or compliment while in a happy mood transfers the energy to the other person instead of looking to receive this via the effort we make. 

  • Habibanazeera

    Thank you for sharing the above approach. Thanks

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome. =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    That’s a great point MaLa! I think the beautiful thing about observing the world in this way and being grateful and kind is that it inevitably provides happiness for ourselves and other people. I also think it’s about balance. Sometimes we’ll have positive energy to share; sometimes we’ll need to create it through our efforts.

  • http://www.aparisstateofmind.com/ Tiela

    Welcome back to the world, Lori, and a speedy recovery to you!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks Tiela! =)

  • Mary_m

    I am so glad I read this today – I too have had a time of learning to embrace a new way of being rather than bemoaning it, as you say, and yes, stopping and being in the moment in a positive way is so much more life affirming than staying in one’s head. Isn’t it curious that it can take a radical change in circumstance to force one’s attention back to what really matters, and how hard I fought against it! But working on acceptance and changing my focus, redirecting attention and challenging outmoded beliefs has opened me up to a far more fulilling life. Thank you for affirming this by writing of your own experience..

  • coachtrishellis

    Being conscious to direct your mind towards a “Better Feeling” place will help in your recovery. Sending you healing and love.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome Mary! Like you wrote, I’ve found that sometimes it’s life’s changes and challenges that are most effective at bringing us “home”–home to what it is, home to what matters, home to ourselves.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks so much for that. =)

  • Michelle

    Lori, I’m so glad you are taking good care of yourself and healing from your surgery with a positive outlook. Your daily posts are so supportive to me and this one was, too. I practice loving kindness meditation as I drive, park, and then walk many blocks to work every day. May I (and the other people I visualize) be happy, peaceful, free from fear, or whatever feels right to focus on. Just setting those intentions helps the day be positive and may have a ripple effect where the prayers or meditation somehow reaches the people I’m thinking of. Wishing you continued healing and wellness.

  • http://tribeawakened.com/ Lonnie Scott

    I love this! Spreading kindness is easy and free. It’s a genuine way to improve your mood, and you will brighten someone’s day when you share it with others the way you have. Noticing something beautiful around you is a great way to cultivate gratitude.

    This post is a beautiful reminder to be grateful. I paused after I read it to look around and appreciate the beauty in this room just in time for my 7 month old daughter to look up from her nap and smile. Good timing :)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    What a wonderful way to start the day and utilize your commute for good! Thanks so much for the well wishes. I’m feeling a little better every day. =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Awww good timing indeed. =) Thanks for commenting Lonnie! 

  • Alex

    I sometimes walk in the street and I study the way people look at each other some with jealousy and distain. If their thoughts were to have their own words we would all hear them say; what do they think they are wearing that would look better on me. Then you have the people who walk through the streets with a smile on there face and they are whistling or humming a tune and they just exude happiness and then you have the others as I like to call them who are just miserable and angry at the world who can’t see the good in their lives and blame everyone and everything around them for their misery and unhappiness, they even complain about the sun coming out. They are so miserable that they get angry at people who are happy to the point that the words that come out of their words are cruel and judgemental, they tell the person that they must be crazy or why do they have annoy everyone with their singing or my favorite they are crazy because no one can be that happy. Sadly, even in certain relationships there is competition , who will have the last word Ina discussion or constantly making judgemental comments about the other persons actions to the point it becomes hurtful and the other partner shuts down emotionally because they feel that whatever they do will be met with a negative comment. There is just so much that a person can block out before they just feel like giving up. The love is still there but mentally and emotionally you become disconnected and the life that you once looked forward on building with this person becomes a distant dream and no longer exists.

    I do feel like we are all competing against each other, I will use myself and my other half as an example about the constant competition instead of having compromise in your life. I rescued a female neo mastiff named Jazz. Jazz was very badly abused which I unfortunately had the misfortune of witnessing firsthand. My girlfriend and I were staying with this man while we were vacationing in Florida. I told my girlfriend that we needed to remove jazz from there so we drove her back to new York with us I couldn’t allow her to be hurt anymore she is in fact one of Gods creatures and I would not have been able to live with myself if I didn’t do something. Jazz is not an easy dog she is very needy and she whines constantly when I leave the apartment even if my girlfriend is home but she is very loving and she is attached to me like I am to her. My girlfriend is not very nice to her and at times she shows her dislike of her in very negative verbal ways things I don’t approve or agree with. I loveJazz and she fills a void in my life and I understand her because I too dealt with my share of abuse in my life. I live with my girlfriend and it is her apartment which she makes sure to remind me of from time to time, then I came to find out that her breed is not allowed in the complex that we live in so my girlfriend has been making my life hell to find Jazz a home which I am having a problem with because she is a part of my life that I can’t see myself parting with, my girlfriend has been making unnecessary comments about my connection with Jazz to the point where I feel that she has a jealousy for the love that I have for Jazz. She feels that I give Jazz more attention than I give her but I have reached a point where I don’t want to hear her complaints about almost everything in our lives which makes me shut down and stay to myself. I know it may sound strange but I feel Jazz understands me and she gives me the love and attention that I lack from my girlfriend Jazz is my family and now my girlfriend wants to take her away from me. My girlfriend constantly harasses me to find a home for Jazz because she feels Jazz has caused a wedge between us but that is not Jazzs fault it’s ours we allowed our relationship to get to the point that it is at now. Jazz does have a good loving home and that is with me but unfortunately my girlfriend wants me to choose between her and Jazz and that isnt fair because I will not let go of Jazz she is an important part of my life and I will never choose and I feel Jazz would agree.

  • http://www.offthemat.co.uk/ Rebecca

    Oh yes. If there’s one thing I could shout from the rooftops for everyone, it’d be that happiness is something we are in control of. We can choose happiness any time, just by focusing our minds on the good things (even thought they might just be little things). And this post is a great reminder of that.

  • Guest

     Loved the Pascal quotation. Seems to be saying that the hardest thing to face is ourselves. Either, we need to start to become the person we want to be, or we need to accept the person we are. Maybe, both, but not necessarily in that order.

  • Essentialmoves

    Walking can be a meditation.  After a surgery on one of our lower limbs our brain pulls our body away from that limb, trying to protect from pain. Behold the LIMP!  Like all other habits, that which once was a protection will become habit and last far past its useful life. Bless the LIMP when it protects you but understand that it will take conscious attention to let it go. Play with push-off.  Push off is the aspect in taking a step where you roll over the ball of your foot, pushing off.  That allows the other leg to come forward.  The limp will disappear when the focus is on moving forward (push-off).  Our bodies reflect our lives.  As we let go of our protections, we can move forward with ease and joy/

  • http://jaredakers.com/ Jared Akers

    Can totally relate,  I would treat loneliness with isolation.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks for this! I actually had a myomectomy surgery, which is essentially a C-section (but to remove benign uterine tumors) so I don’t have a limp–just a bit of a hunch! But I’m finally starting to walk upright again, and what a wonderful feeling that is!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks Rebecca. It’s always an empowering feeling to realize (or remember) we have more power than we think!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    That’s exactly what I did! Sometimes it amazes me to realize just how much of my life I (formerly) spent alone.

  • Curiouscreator

    I write down the things that I have been grateful for if I feel stressed at the end of the day, even if it’s the very basics of life…such a soft warm bed, beautiful blue sky, rain, soothing cup of tea, delicious food, text from a good friend, hot shower…. May I say your post would have been so much better if you hadn’t gone to a corrupt, globalised, coffee chain or even promoted it, but had supported a locally owned and run cafe, maybe you don’t have any where you live…..just a thought :o)

  • Shells

    Gratitude : that gut wrenching feeling

    We retrieve at moments

    when we have none left

    We give a thanks, no matter how small and unwilling

    but yet, somehow, we feel much better.

    This retrieval is what activates good spirits.