I teach geography to younger kids, so I am constantly reminded that many people live a lifestyle that is the polar opposite of my own. And sometimes the things people face can be harsh. Some live in horrible circumstance we can’t and don’t want to relate to.
Of course, I purposely avoid the cold, hard realities of life when I show kids other cultures of the world. Some things they do need sheltered from until they are old enough to process it.
No wars. No civil unrest. No violence. That sort of thing.
But there are times when a culture or a part of the world doesn’t have many comforts of life, and it is appropriate to show them these things.
A Rough Life
What kinds of things? Well, kids may see huts that serve as houses. Or they may see kids just like them who have to walk a long way to get the family’s water every day. And without shoes.
There might be dirt roads with no cars. Sometimes a few bikes or motorcycles, but no cars.
Some villages have no stores anywhere around that we can tell. These people obviously grow their own food and raise animals for milk and meat. The kids ask where they get their clothes, and I honestly don’t know and tell them so.
But are these people miserable? Not necessarily. We still see happy faces. Smiling kids playing in the street.
So what’s the secret? How do they stay happy when circumstances are not?
How to Stay Happy
What a great question. How DO you stay happy when circumstances are not?
As I write this, my country, along with many other countries around the world, are fighting a vicious virus called COVID-19. CoViD for Corona Virus Disease. And 19 for 2019–the year it was discovered.
And this disease has changed a lot of things in a bad way.
We have to stay at home. Many people have lost their way to make a living and consequently their way to pay the bills.
No money, but plenty of time because everyone must stay at home, only going out for groceries or other necessities.
Even the beaches have closed.
So in our blessed, prosperous culture, we are doing without. And it’s hard.
Which bring us back to the point…how do you stay happy when circumstances are not happy?
The Path to Happiness
I don’t have all the answers, but I think a big piece to this puzzle is counting your blessings.
Not just once, or a few times, but daily.
When my sister was fighting cancer, she read a book about counting 1,000 blessings and writing them all down. I think it was 1,000. It was a lot, anyway. And that exercise really helped her cope with the disease.
I tried that. Twice. It was a chore after a while, and I drifted to doing other things, abandoning the whole project.
But I have found a different way to count blessings that works for me, and maybe it will work for you, too.
Instead of racking my brain to pinpoint all the general blessings of friends, family, and the entire scope of things that I enjoy, it’s much more fulfilling for me to find the beauty in every moment, in every day.
Daily Happy Habits
It’s a daily exercise. What was beautiful today? What did I love in the last 24 hours?
Sometimes it’s just a quiet moment enjoying my surroundings. Or a hug from someone I love.
Maybe a great dinner with my favorite foods.
Or getting to see that beautiful bird with vibrant blue and black feathers pecking furiously on the old tree in the backyard. I only noticed him because he was making so much noise. And that was a gift for me.
Or maybe it was the moments I enjoyed creating things. Doing things I like to do. Times I’ve worked in my garden, breathing fresh air and seeing the little signs of new life.
These are small things that add a little sparkle into an ordinary day.
You see, big blessings are obvious. They are no-brainers. The new house. The new car. The promotion at work.
But life doesn’t dish out the big things very often. And for some of us, not very much at all.
Does that mean we can’t be happy?
Don’t Miss the Small Stuff
Not if we learn to count the little blessings. The often mundane, every day happenings in our lives. So common we often miss them.
So don’t miss them.
Notice them. Remind yourself of how much you love those things. How much they make you happy. And how blessed you really are.
And then write them down at the end of the day. Every day. Just a few words. A line or two.
It’s the constant affirmation of happiness, no matter how small, that makes you able to look up when things look down.
It’s how to stay happy when circumstances are not.
I’m not sure if people in those underprivileged countries consciously do that. But in our own part of the world, maybe we should.
So count your blessings today. And then tomorrow and the next day. Until it becomes a habit and you don’t even realize you’re doing it.
And life will be happy. And so will you.