The pursuit of happiness

Summer is drawing to a close. Teachers (and thus, psychologists working in the schools) go back to work next week. For the last several years, this has caused the onset of depression for me. I love my work, but since moving to Minnesota in 2003, I’ve struggled with the 6-month winters.
I love Minnesota, but I get cabin fever by the end of January. It might be because I was raised in the southern part of Iowa. We actually had spring in March. You know, when spring is supposed to come. Native Minnesotans encourage me to try one of the many winter sports in an effort to have a positive relationship with winter. I tried several. That’s probably a story unto itself, but let me just say I am less than adept at winter sports.
Last year, we had three snows in October, and still had a snow day in mid-April. The length of the winter was particularly difficult, and I was talking about retiring early, let me tell you!
We can’t always run away from our problems, though. So my husband and I have worked hard to set up things that will help us get through the winter with happier moods. (Apparently I share my unhappiness with him.) We’ve (he’s) built raised beds with a lattice background. I put the flowers in, and they are wonderful, but I know they won’t be around in the winter. Therefore, we bought several birdhouses and painted them bright colors. They are hung between eight and ten feet off the ground. I’m hoping the snow does not get that high.
We also installed a huge fountain with lights. (Yes, I helped with that.) The sound is peaceful, and we’re going to run some windshield-washer fluid through it to keep it running down to around 10 degrees above zero. [Note: We put netting over it to keep the birds out, so they won’t get sick. We installed a heated birdbath for the birds.]
And that’s another thing. I get a great deal of enjoyment out of watching the birds at birdfeeders, so we hung four of them up to be able to see from different windows. I used to keep birdfeeders years ago. I don’t know why I never got them out when we moved to this house.
In the winter, I tend to not go anywhere after the sun goes down…except home from work. My husband and I have resolved to go to events at least once a month during the winter months. That may not sound like much, but believe me, with our schedules, it’s a great start.
I realize you might not care about my difficulty with winter, but I wanted to make a point about dealing with things we don’t like, but can’t get away from. It’s a good idea to spend some time figuring out what makes you happy. Then you can work to surround yourself with whatever it is. Too often, we treat happiness as something that might happen to us…or not. Taking an active role in getting things that make you happy into your life gives you some power. You can impact your own happiness instead of waiting passively for it to occur.
This is also a good idea for your children. Help them figure out activities that make them happy. Their first idea might just be asking for more toys, but you can help them realize that more toys won’t make them happier. It’s really more specific than that. Trust me, there are a lot of wealthy people who have a lot of toys, and they are no happier than those of us who are not wealthy.
I have a great niece who started showing pigs at 4-H projects when she was about eight years old. She does not live on a farm. She was given the opportunity by a neighbor who had pigs. You might be surprised to know that I used to have no idea what showing pigs was. I’ve seen her do it now, though, so I at least know what it is. She’s good at it. She’s gone to national competitions for it…and won. Now at the age of 13 or so, she’s still into showing animals, and her passion has spread to her cousins who are now all involved in 4-H projects.
They are learning responsibility. [Did you know the pigs have to be walked twice a day???? This is on top of their school activities.] These children are polite, courteous, and well-behaved. They have found a wholesome activity that involves the entire family. And they have found…happiness.
You’re welcome to give it a try!

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