Creating happiness in your life

The other week, my husband and I attended a talk by Dr. Sanjiv Chopra on what makes a person happy. Dr. Chopra’s points resonated with me, especially because one or more of these elements often lifts me from blah into a happier place, so I thought I would share my interpretation of his talk.

He summarized four aspects of life that can increase your happiness:

  1. Family and friends (your chosen family)
  2. For others
  3. Forgiveness
  4. Gratitude

Family and friends

Surround yourself with people who lift you, who love you, who you love back. People you want to have in your life. Spend time with them. Enjoy those connections.


Don’t carry the energy of anger, hatred, resentment, etc. Forgive others. Forgive ourselves.

For others

Doing things for others. My husband and I debated the meaning of this one. If you are a nurse and help people all day long, does that count? I don’t believe it does. I think you have to help others with them in mind, thinking about what they like. I can take care of my family by making meals, creating a space that feels good to live in, planning fun outings, etc. If I do it as an obligation or routine, that doesn’t make me feel better. It makes it feel like drudgery. But if I do it with them in mind, considering what they would like, the same action is more fulfilling for me and usually for all involved. For example, being home for my child after school is different than thinking, “He might like to play this game – let me set it up so it is ready to go when he gets home from school.” or even “They would really enjoy this for dinner – let me put that together for them.” (I know – I sound so house-wifey.)


Take the time to truly appreciate the gifts you have in your life. Think about this: What if you woke up tomorrow and found that you only had the things you explicitly were grateful for today? What would those things be?

For me, gratitude also helps me to notice special happenings in my life that otherwise would go unnoticed, kind of like finding little surprise treats in my day.

I wish happiness for you – today and always. When you are happy, you feel like you can do anything. May you have that fabulous energy that enables your dreams to become reality. And your happiness will be contagious!





Help when we ask for it

When I was in bed on chemo, I fantasized about what I would do if I had blocks of time where I could move around freely and think more clearly, and where my schedule wasn’t bound by doctor appointments.

Now that I am on a holiday from chemo, I’m not really doing anything “big.” Mostly, I spend the time doing more of what I was already doing, like driving the kids around or running errands. I find it liberating to be able to plan for any day of any week, rather than only agreeing to do things that accommodate my chemo schedule or fit my prediction of good days.

At the start of my chemo holiday, I optimistically assumed that every day would be a good day. So I joyfully and confidently volunteered to lector at two Masses over Easter weekend: The Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday night and the 10 a.m. Easter Sunday Mass. Of course I would feel good!

My assumption, however, was wrong.

On Friday night before Easter, I had a painful intestinal obstruction resulting in approximately 2 hours of sleep. I fumbled through the next day’s hair appointment and childcare, figuring that I would rest at some point.

Of course, Saturday evening arrived without a chance to rest beforehand.

The Easter Vigil Saturday night Mass would be about two hours long. I decided that, if I needed to, I could leave after I did my part.

However, once I did my part, I realized that my energy was holding up. I actually stayed for the entire service. I may have been lifted by the spirits of the crowd, but I also believe that grace steps in and carries me when I really need it.

Once home and in bed, I suddenly had pain from tumors and AGAIN couldn’t sleep. The last time I looked at the clock, it it was 5 a.m.; the kids woke us at 6 a.m. filled with Easter excitement. I was slow to rally on three hours of sleep over two nights.

The boys opened their baskets and hunted for Easter eggs. Then at 9:00 a.m., I headed back to church. I had two roles that morning:

  1. Stand at the door and welcome people as they arrived and
  2. Lector during the Mass, which included reading two readings, out loud, from the Bible.

On the drive to church, I worried. Could I stand long enough to greet people as they arrived? And, could I read aloud? My voice is getting stronger, but it is still weak from chemo. It often has a strained tone that is hard on the ears, and it cracks and skips as I speak. When I am tired, it sounds even more strained.

I wanted to deliver a good reading to the overflowing Easter crowd. I wanted to vary my tone and expression, so that anyone listening had at least a chance to get something out of the readings, but I had little control over my voice.

As I drove, I talked with God. I told Him that I wanted to do this for Him and that I know that He always comes through and carries me when I need it. But this was cutting it close.

Then I thought about the event we were celebrating: Easter. I wondered if Jesus had a similar conversation during the crucifixion. Did he think, “I have more teaching to do to spread Your word. I haven’t reached everyone yet. This isn’t looking good. I know You will take care of me but this is cutting it close.”

Did he know that his answer would come three days later? Or did he feel like, okay, this is it?

While my problems are nowhere near crucifixion-size, this did help me to feel more like, whatever happens, God can save it. He can take whatever we offer and use it for good.

I was able to stand and greet people. When I read, my voice still had a funny pitch and it cracked, but it was there. It wasn’t what I imagined as perfect but it all seemed to come together well enough that, hopefully, everyone present got what they needed on that Easter Sunday.

Thanks for your prayers and for helping me to get what my family and I need. This situation is not what I imagine to be perfect, but it does seem to come together well enough that we generally get what we need, when we need it.

Now that I have a bit more time available, I’m so happy to be able to help others. I still believe the good moments far outweigh the difficult ones, and that we can be carried through the difficult moments when we ask for help.

I hope that your moments are beautiful, and that if I can help in any way, please give me the honor of stepping into that opportunity.

Blessings and light,