A friend told me I’m positive. I told him that I cultivate it. Positivity is part of how to be happy. I wasn’t born cheerfully looking on the bright side. My mom could be forced-positive, but my dad was cranky and bitingly negative much of the time.
I endured harm as a child and teenager. Then ages 20 – 35 I was home a lot, with few friends, and I didn’t talk much. Being social mystified me even more than it does now. I felt hopeless.
My life changed a lot nine years ago when I went on my first Sacred Peace Walk with Ming. I learned about community and the desert. I found life meaning.
Slowly I learned how to socialize. It was hard work to loosen up, figure out pacing in relationships and how to moderate, learn how to trust and who to trust. How to enter conversations and act normal enough to attend a meeting or be around people at all. I still can’t get it right sometimes.
I was terrified of people for many years. Probably until around eight years ago. It took until I was in my mid-30s for me to learn that not everyone is harmful.
My curious friend (who also asked me what it means to be a witch) asked me the next day what I mean by cultivating positivity. So I told him a few of the things that I do.
gratitude journal daily
Ming and I gratitude journal every day. We do it out loud, taking turns until we’ve each listed five things we’re grateful for. It’s one of my favorite parts of the day! I like it so much that every once in a while, we do it twice in a day, as a treat.
It’s great to gratitude journal with Ming because I learn what he likes. Then I can be aware more of his preferences and try to bring more happiness to him. Likewise, he can do the same for me. Thank you, sweetheart.
I like how it’s ephemeral; we don’t have to grab onto the gratitudes. We can let them go like clouds and trust there will be new ones tomorrow. Very comforting, how it’s daily and reliable.
Taking a few minutes every day for gratitude, for many years, has changed something about my mind. It creates a mentality that I can go back to. It’s a place inside me that I can visit whenever I want. It’s a very handy place to have, because I find nurturing there. The happiness nurtures me.
Gratitude journaling sounds hokey, but good results spread to other parts of my life. Sorry hokey is sometimes helpful. I promise I won’t turn into a Carebear with a beam of funlight shining out of my tummy.
smiling on purpose
Some activities are difficult for me in a sensory way. For example, I used to hate taking a shower. I didn’t like getting wet, and once I was wet, I didn’t like getting dry. Soapy water is overwhelming, and getting the temperature right.
I started smiling in the shower intentionally, even though I did not enjoy taking a shower. I tried to train myself to like it. Yes, as if I was my own dog. Arf arf! I feel a lot better about taking a shower now. It’s become almost easy.
In the shower I also talk to myself kindly, encouraging myself. “I’m proud of you for taking a shower today. You are going a good job. We’re almost done.” The encouragement helps. I intentionally give myself words that I wish someone else gave to me when I was younger and I didn’t receive. Now as a fully-grown adult, I can do that for myself.
I talk to myself kindly off and on all day. “That’s helpful that you made oatmeal–I’m so glad you did that.” “It’s great you finished filling out that form–I’m impressed.” “Thank you for thinking ahead. That was amazing.”
I can talk to myself however I choose. Before, I was mean to myself and criticized myself all day. I’d taken in some mean things I was told as a child and told them to myself. For example, I was told as a child that I was stupid. Actually I was not stupid, but it was told to me with violence and got stuck. It became automatic to tell that to myself.
But I can realize I’m doing that, stop, and instead say sentences to myself that help me. “You’re ok. Everyone makes mistakes. I’m glad you tried.”
Sometimes I slip into self-cruelty, but I don’t want to treat anyone that way. Not Ming, not myself, not a friend. Kindness is something I value, and we all deserve it.
how to be happy
There’s a lot more I could say, on the topic of how to be happy. Learning how to have faith in myself and the world was hugely important. Embodiment is too.
Letting myself feel pleasure, saying no to shame, ecstatic dance, fat liberation, radical mental health, love, and good communication all help. I needed to realize that I’m unconditionally ok and learn how to be there for myself. So many things to learn!
Positivity is not fake. We never lie, when we’re gratitude journaling. There’s always something to be grateful for, if only our hearts are still beating, we have language, we can feel pain and grief, we’re honest, and we try. Those would be perfect gratitudes for a depressed day. I’ve been there.