“Do that!”

Many years ago a friend, feeling depressed, called a mental health hot-line. She expected the person answering to listen patiently to all her woes, to empathize, to offer gentle support–but what she received was the opposite. Before she could sing her blues, the hot-line counselor cut her off.

“When were you the happiest?” the counselor asked.

My friend answered easily, recounting details of a very happy period of her life: where she lived, who she hung out with, how she worked for income, which activities she enjoyed in her free time, and so on. As she spoke, my friend noticed that she felt better just thinking about that happy time and talking about it. However, she was not prepared for the crisis counselor’s response, which was shockingly abrupt.

“Do that!” he advised.

My friend sputtered in disbelief. She started to tell the counselor “It’s not that simple,” but he interrupted. “Do that!” he said, ending the conversation.

At the time, my friend thought the crisis counselor had been harsh, but now she knows his words were a gift; he showed her the essence of happiness. Seek happiness by doing what makes you happy. How simple it seems–and how readily we stand in our own way.

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7 Responses to “Do that!”

  1. Ann Clay says:

    That is terrific advice. But what do you do if you can’t recall a really happy time?

  2. shay says:

    If I couldn’t recall a really happy time, I would think of times when I was at least somewhat happy. I’d make a list of the elements that made me happy then, and use that list to put together a sketch of a life that would make me happy–recognizing that that what makes a person happy often changes over time, so my “happiness sketch” would need to be dynamic.

  3. shay says:

    Melissa, than you for the link! Yes, that poster is a great illustration of the basic principle. Seems so simple! And it is, when we allow ourselves to accept it–and to take responsibility for our own happiness.

  4. Cara says:

    I have, more than once, just tried to imagine an ideal life, maybe even just walk through the day from morning to night in my mind, and then tried to figure out if I could aim for any of that. It does at least help give you a clearer idea of what would make you happier. Even if most of your life is unchangeable, there may be a few small things in the scenario you can achieve now, which gives you that feeling of hope. I’ve been caught up in family crisis for years (son dx’d w mental health issues, temporary but truamatic seperation from 2nd husband, daughter hospitalized w mental health issues and dx’d w fibromyalgia, cut off communication w family of origin when they were only making it all worse, etc) , but might be ready to try that again soon. Most of the time, its that hope, that faith that the pain will pass, that keeps me going.

  5. Laurie White says:

    I just happened onto this blog almost by accident and I loved this post! The essence of being proactive–we are our own “weather” as Steven Covey says. Thanks–I needed this 🙂

  6. shay says:

    Cara, I am very sorry that you have had to go through so many trials! It seems you have the right mindset, though. As long as you are breathing and striving, things can get better. It was brave of you to recognize that your family of origin was undermining things, and to do what you needed in order to protect yourself and your family of making.
    When I was going through a very difficult transition a few years ago, I made a list of things I wanted to experience–both large and small–and made it a goal to attain those as I could. The very act of writing them down began to make a difference. Before I knew it, I had eaten a lobster for the first time in decades, danced in the rain, and bought the used car I had envisioned driving in My Whole New Life. Since then, I’ve had to update my list several times, crossing off things I’d done, adding things I want more of, and new things, as well–My Lifelong Dream Cruise, for one!
    You seem ready again to visualize such things for yourself. Why not give it a try today and check in with it every week? Then aim for one thing, and please tell me what magic happens!

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