7: The Happy Book

7: The Happy Book

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness

The Happy Book

Every day may not be good, but there’s something good in every day.

~Author Unknown

I’ve spent a lot of my life unhappy. Looking back there were times that it was okay to feel that way, for example when my parents got divorced, when I was mugged at gunpoint during a vacation, when two friends died in a car accident when I was in high school, and when I was brutally assaulted in my early twenties.

But there were the other times, too. In middle school I didn’t think that I was as smart as everyone else; I didn’t have cool enough clothes; my mother dropped me off at school in a beat-up car. Junior high was the same. I wasn’t as tall and thin as all the other girls; my baby teeth hadn’t fallen out yet; and where were my boobs? Fast forward to high school. Still the boys had eyes for others; still everyone was smarter; still everyone dressed better. Yes, my boobs had finally arrived, but somehow that paled in comparison to everything else. In my first job out of college I wasn’t making as much money as my friends; my apartment wasn’t as nice; when I looked around there was always something to feel miserable about.

I come from a long line of people who have suffered from diagnosable depression. When I was single, I assumed that was just who I was — it was the genes I had been dealt.

When I was twenty-four I met my husband. We got married three years later, and three years after that I had my first child.

Once we had kids, my excuse of “it’s-in-the-genes” didn’t work so well for me anymore because that meant my kids were going to be depressed. And although I realize that that still might be the case, I began looking at my unhappiness in a new way.

It was something I had to work on myself.

Over the years many things have helped me fight depression: healthy eating, exercise, fresh air, friends, volunteering, church, therapy and medicine. It all helps.

But I have a little secret, too.

It’s an exercise that I do every night before bed. By the side of my bed I have a small datebook. It covers January to December, but it’s small — every day only has enough space to write one line.

Every night I ask myself this question: “What made me the happiest today?”

Because I don’t have space to write very much it seems easy, and it only takes me a few seconds. But in those seconds I replay my day and decide on its happiest moment. Some days I come up with answers I expect, and other days I find myself surprised.

Some days it’s: “my husband came home early,” “reading before bed with the kids,” “laughing with a friend on the phone,” “getting a parking space when I was late… right in front!” And some days aren’t as easy and it’s: “finally getting to get into bed,” “being able to stay calm during a fight with my daughter,” “not having to cook dinner — again.”

But the spin on my life has changed. I actively seek the positive. Every day.

And sometimes, if I have a sour day, I look back through the book, read, and remember those happy moments in the past.

In fact, I wish I had started my happy book back in middle school. Entries might have been: “I don’t need braces like everyone else,” “I caught Charlie S. looking at me today,” and “I didn’t trip when I went up on stage to receive my Most Improved Player award.”

~Jennifer Quasha

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