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The Art of Happiness

Photo of Gala Darling by Chloe

One of the toughest challenges to being a new parent is the realization of how little free time you actually have.

During the first few weeks of Ryan’s arrival at home, my day would consist of diaper changes, feeding, burping, breast pumping, holding, rocking, shushing – and the cycle repeats itself until my husband comes home. On many days, finding time for a shower becomes a challenge in itself.

And if I’m lucky, when he’s napping, I’ll have an hour or two to run to the bathroom, wash all my breast pump parts and get something to eat. On my most productive days, my accomplishments include getting the dishes done, or a trip to the grocery store.

This has been my life for the past six months. And what I described above is only a small portion of the challenges we’ve face. Other challenges include sleep deprivation, maintaining romantic relationships, and colic (3+ hours of non-stop crying every evening for several weeks).

What I realized is that we as a society really don’t give enough credit to the fulltime moms and dads in the world. It is really one of the toughest things one could experience, yet, it is one of those things we can’t anticipate or truly understand until we’re going through it.

Because my hands are constantly full (literally), I am behind on everything else, like cleaning the house, doing laundry, answering email and what feels like an endless list of action items.

Now that Ryan is a little bit older, whenever he is not eating or napping, I find myself putting him down on a play mat or swing, almost habitually, so I can catch up and get more things done. But in doing so, I wasn’t really participating with him when he was awake.

Ryan at 5 months. See more photos on facebook.

My mind felt noisy, cluttered and frazzled. I felt as if I was drowning in a sea of todos… ahhhh!!!!!!

One day a few weeks ago, as I was rushing to getting some work done on the computer, I heard Ryan making these ridiculously adorable sounds with his mouth as he lay on a blanket next to my desk.

I tried to ignore it, so I could finish what I was doing, but then in that moment, I realized that I was missing out on being with my baby and witnessing the precious developmental moments. I turned off the computer and started playing with Ryan with all my attention.

I realized that I had allowed the list of action items to dictate how I was living my life. I became so focused on getting things done, that I was no longer focused on being with my baby son, even though he is with me physically.

I realized that work will always be there, and that it is never ending if I allow it to be. I realized that my own happiness and spending time being with my family are the most important priorities. And now, I choose to be with my son, to give him my full attention, to witness the pure bliss that babies radiate. Everything else can wait.

It’s like when we’re busy being busy, we miss the beautiful details of our life, and we take for granted the things that mean the most to us.

If today was the last day of your life, would you be doing what you’ve been so busy trying to get done? Or would you be spending deliciously intimate time with the people you loved? Or doing something so satisfying for your soul that you know in your heart that life was meant to be joyful.

The Direct Route to Happiness

It’s easy to get caught up with the never ending todo lists, or the demands of other people wanting your time, or the guilt of things you think you “should” be doing.

But if we take a moment to slow down, to reflect, to clear our minds, we will realize that many of the things we do, and many of the things that seemingly cause us stress do not add any value to our wellbeing.

At the end of the day, ask yourself, “What do I want?” and the answer is likely a derivative of “I want to be happy.

So instead of being busy, instead of doing, instead of rushing to get there, just decide to be happy, right Now!

Make the feeling of Joy and Happiness your primary focus as you walk through your day, regardless of what you are doing.

Focus on things that make you feel good. Focus on the goodness and blessings in your life. Look for things to be appreciative of, and mentally point out all that you are thankful for in any moment.

If you catch yourself feeling stressed out or overwhelmed, stop what you are doing and (optionally) close your eyes. Take a few deep breathes – fully inhale and slowly exhale – and ask yourself, “I want to feel good. What can I do right now to feel good?” and focus on feeling good and follow your inner voice.

The other day, I felt distracted and pressured, and then I asked myself what I wanted to do at that moment, and my inner voice said to play the song Sweet Lullaby by Deep Forest. For me, the song represents hope, inspiration and adventure.

I instantly felt upbeat and started dancing to its tunes in my office. A sense of relief washed over me physically and calmed my emotional being. I felt refreshed right away. In that moment, I came away with the following realization:

Stop doing what you think you should be doing.
Do what you want to do, do what makes you feel good,
do what you feel inspired to do.
Remember that in your world, you make up the rules.
Stress is optional.

~ Tina Su

… So, this is my new motto.

Try it out.

Let me know how it works for you.

* What do you think? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below. See you there!

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About the author

Tina Su is a mom, a wife, a lover of Apple products and a CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) for our motivational community: Think Simple Now. She is obsessed with encouraging and empowering people to lead conscious and happy lives. Subscribe to new inspiring stories each week. You can also subscribe to Tina on Facebook.

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41 thoughts on The Art of Happiness

  1. Great article.

    When I was a server, I learned that if you wanted to look busy–and be left alone–just carry around a ketchup bottle and act like you were going somewhere.

    After serious work and soul-searching, I realized acting busy all the time was a way in which I could avoid depending on anyone else or asking for help. If I was completely self-reliant, I was less like to experience rejection.

    Doing something doesn’t necessarily equate to accomplishing anything of value. My father retired 2 years ago, two days ago, at the age of 65, we learned he has terminal cancer. That sucks. But, I have also learned to accept that to my father, providing and being known as a “hard worker” was important to him.

  2. Thanks for filling us in on some of the personal side of things Tina. Getting caught up in “busy” is so easy yet so unfulfilling. It’s like if I sit in front of my inbox and start to reply to emails. I could sit there all day and just work through them one by one, but is life really that much brighter when I’m done? Wouldn’t I rather be on the phone or in person having a tea? I’d say the answer is Yes. It’s just easy to forget that in the moment. Way to catch yourself! This is the perfect article to lead into the next post on Finding Peace In a Busy Life. Nice fit ;)

    Love you’re quote too.

    Ryan is adorable by the way!

    Here’s to noticing the truly important things and doing them a bit more often.

    I am off to a dance lesson with my fiancee (despite the pile of work and email I just mentioned). I think there’ll be time for those later…


  3. By the way. Your suggestion to spend your time on the things that make you most happy reminds me of Richard Koch’s famous 80/20 Principle, which Tim Ferris adapted and made into a way of life. Find the 20% of things/people/actions in your life that provide you with 80% of your happiness and just do those. Life will be grand as a result. I recently wrote a summary on Richard’s philosophy as well as an interview with him on ReadingForYourSuccess if anyone’s interested.


  4. CoriC

    Hi Tina,
    Can totally empathise, except it was our second daughter who had the colic so we struggled with trying to give attention to two little girls at once. I love how you mentioned that it was a task to even manage to get to have a shower – that was my life too. But it will pass and the best thing is to live each day, rather than wish the bad days away because I’m sure we’ll just look back and wish for them to be children again at some stage. It’s all easy to say in hindsight I suppose.

    I now work fulltime again, but try to do as much as I can with the girls after work and at weekends. The housework suffers as a result, but last night I decided to have an inpromptu movie night with the two of them snuggled up beside me, instead of clearing up the kitchen and I’m sure they appreciated that more – as did I. The kitchen can wait – in fact it only took 15 minutes once they were in bed, but they got 1.5 hours of snuggle time.

    I think you need to throw caution to the wind as much as you can – do the messy stuff – baking, painting, plant stuff and try not to worry about the more mundane things like house/work.

  5. Hello there Tina, I feel one of the great privileges in life is to be given the honor of raising a baby to adulthood. If you are not raising them, then someone else certainly is. I remember going to my friends name celebration of their baby daughter which is a Jewish custom. The Rabi spoke of the privilege that was bestowed on them (the parents) of raising this little being, this “spirit”. I left that gathering forever changed with an enlightened level of respect for all my parents had done for me.
    I am sure if Mother Earth could have the microphone she would say
    a huge thank you to all you parents raising children. Healthy people = Healthy planet.
    As far as colic is concerned I thought that a well qualified baby chiropractor can help with that problem. I know of one M.D. / Osteopath , extremely unique, Dr. Greg Blaney, here in the Northwest. Maybe his office would be able to refer you to someone in your area if this approach interests you.

  6. Alicia

    Exactly… there is no excuse to let beautiful and precious moments passed us by just because we MUST finish that item on the to-do list. At the end of the day, it’s the moments with people that keeps me feeling alive and happy. =)

  7. shaimaa

    i like it too much..thank you :)

  8. I don’t have a child yet, but will sometime, I’m sure. This post really puts it into perspective for me. Congratulations too by the way.

  9. li

    love. this. post.

    i think, particularly about the “not knowing what its like till you do it” thing, one other issue came up for me. i had an expectation of what parenting was going to be. and it was not like that at all!

    so please don’t stress yourself out. your life is now completely different than it was before. at times it will feel completely overwhelming (and it will be!) don’t hold yourself to your former standards (i was my own worst critic in this regard). relish in your inability to get as much done as you did before. be willing to change your daily list of things to do into a general weekly goal.

    be gentle with yourself. breathe. find those quiet moments (although you probably won’t know about those until after you stop being sleep deprived) and be fully in them.

    and blink, and 5 years will have gone by.

    best —

  10. What a cute little boy! Can’t say I’m quite ready for one yet, but maybe someday!

  11. Willy

    Hi Tina,
    I’m so happy you discovered the true beauty that your son shows you. Like you said anything else can wait, work will never end…how hard you try. And if you think you don’t have time to spend with your son, just remember: You never will have more time in you whole live then right at this moment.

    Bless you

  12. Great article. It is truly finding what really makes us happy that’s important in our life.

  13. Wow!!

    Great article Tina, It’s so funny, I have a 1-year-old cousin named Ryan as well. You’re so right, I mean, happiness is a choice: we either DECIDE to be happy or not, it’s our choice.

    Cheers! =)

  14. I like what you guys are up too. Such smart work and reporting! Keep up the superb works guys I have incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I think it will improve the value of my website :).

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