By David Joel Miller.
So how do you know when you are happy?
What things say for you “today I am doing well; today my recovery is on track?” It is most often not the big things, the jobs or relationships. It is easy to feel happy when something great, new and novel happens. People, most of the time, get happy when something good happens. Not being able to take joy or pleasure out of something that used to make you happy is a sure sign of depression setting in.
Not being able to feel pleasure, professional counselors call that anhedonia, is one of the things we look for in diagnosing depression. Happiness is about more than just not being clinically depressed. How do you tell if you are really happy deep down? If someone were visiting with you how would they know today was one of those happy days?
In interviews I ask clients “What makes you happy.” They tell me not about big things, but mostly about little things, everyday things, that result in them feeling happy. Those things also reflect happiness. Most times it is those little things that are making them happy.
When someone is functioning well, when life is worth living, they take better care of themselves. One way we as outsiders looking in can tell if someone is happy is to look at how they care for themselves. We call these self-care habits “activities of daily life.” Someone who is able to do their “activities of daily life” is headed in a good direction. They are having a good day.
Someone who is unable to do those same activities, we worry about them.
So did you make your bed today? People who get up and make the bed may have a large head start on happiness compared to those who don’t. You need to decide for yourself if making your bed says “happy day” to you. But many people find that on the days they are able to make their bed, this says to them today will be a good day.
It goes farther than making the bed is a barometer for happiness. People tell me that when they get in a habit of doing things to care for themselves it becomes easier to keep up that habit.
Do you feel better or worse on days that you brush your teeth, fix your hair and put on your good clothes? Doing self-care even on days you don’t feel like it can improve your mood.
One client told me he and his partner used to go for walks every morning. He could judge the quality of their relationship by how often they walked. During periods of conflict they just did not feel like going for the daily walk. If one of them was depressed they did not feel like a morning walk that day. The result was that their communication got worse, the depression increased and the happiness disappeared.
Once we discovered this connection between the morning walk and the feeling of happiness with the relationship, they made a commitment to walk together every morning whether they felt like it or not. They found that more walk time resulted in more and better communication and that created more happiness on both people’s part.
There is an old twelve step expression “fake it till you make it.” That expression is not about being dishonest or showing a false face to others. It is telling us that when we go through the actions of a happy person we become happy. The opposite can happen also. Isolate, avoid others and you become lonely and sad.
So what daily rituals tell you that you are on the right track? Will you commit to yourself to take better care of yourself? Try it for a week and tell us how your commitment to self-care affected your mood and your success.
Are your happy enough to make your bed today?
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books