Recently, I read a book called “My Story” which is about Elizabeth Smart, the woman who was abducted and horrifically abused for 9 months when she was 14 years old. It was such a gut-wrenching and heart-breaking story which has a happy ending, but I couldn’t help but to imagine what I would’ve done in her shoes. Would I have been as strong as she was? Would I have been able to survive the ordeal and move on? Would I be able to forgive for my own sake? I wrestled with these questions in my head over and over again as I continued to read page after page of her story. I wondered how she was able to go on to live a “normal” life after something so traumatic (she got married in 2012). As I neared the end of the book, I read something that changed everything for me.
“He has stolen nine months of your life that you will never get back. But the best punishment you could ever give him is to be happy.”
– Lois Smart (to her daughter Elizabeth)
After pondering over these two sentences, I started to think about my own life. There are so many things in my past that I wish I could’ve done different. Don’t get me wrong, I have very few regrets because all of my mistakes, bad decisions (as well as good decisions) have shaped me to be who I am today. But there have been times when I held on to bitterness toward certain people for way too long. When I stay bitter, it robs me of my joy, my happiness.
Not that my intention is to punish people that have wronged me in the past (I don’t feel bitter towards those people anymore), but I want to live my life in a way that I don’t let other people’s actions rob me of even a minute of my life.
Here are a few ways I’ll be working on being happy:
- Pray for Others More – When I pray for others, I tend to grow in my appreciation for my own life. Also, according to The Psychology of Happiness and Well-Being, praying for others has been found to decrease stress level and increase happiness in the one doing the praying.
- Forgive Quicker – When I forgive, I feel less burdened with negative emotions. It’s been found (by Mayo Clinic) that forgiveness can lead to healthier relationships and higher self-esteem among many other benefits.
- Count My Blessings – 5 months into her captivity, Elizabeth Smart started making a mental list of the things she was grateful for: “I still believe in God,” “I know that Jesus was the Savior of the world,” “Jesus was near. He keeps me strong and gives me hope,” “I still have a family. I don’t get to be with them, but someday I will.” She had several more on her list, and she finished with, “I kept adding to my list of blessings until I eventually fell asleep.”
(If she can count her blessings in the midst of such a devastating situation, I have no excuse.)
There are so many more things that I can add to my list, but I will focus on these three.
Now let’s go and BE HAPPY!