Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Can I Make Myself Happy?

Pam has been through some really difficult times. She is a single mother with an ex-husband who is cannot be counted on to pay child support regularly or to show up for his time with their two girls. Pam likes her job but not the pay and occasionally has to work overtime to make ends meet. She is close to her family and they help when they can but they have lives of their own. She has a couple of really close women friends but is not dating anyone, partly because she has not met the right person and partly because she does not have a lot of time for herself.

If you met Pam, you would think that her life is in such a sunny place. She always has a smile on her face and if you ask her about things in her life, she will share a cute story about her children or something interesting going on in her life or job right now.

To Pam’s closest friends, they know that she struggles and has times of feeling angry, disappointed or sad but they would tell you that she does not let things get her down. She has the attitude that you only worry about things that you might be able to change and that the worry should be more about solving problems than stewing about the injustices and wrongs. Pam would also tell you that she has decided that she must find ways to let go of the things that she cannot change, maybe accepting that the situation is not a good one but also knowing that her energy is better spent on making her own life, and that of her daughters, the happiest and healthiest that it can be.

You may be wondering how Pam can see the good even when life is tough. You also may be wondering if she is deluding herself about reality. Pam is actually one of the lucky ones, born with the ability to think positively on her own. She was reared in a loving and supportive family who, while they were certainly not perfect, found many ways to help her know that she was a good person with lots of good qualities and the ability to achieve whatever she put her mind to doing. Pam grew up believing in and liking herself.

Others in tough situations are not as fortunate as Pam and have to struggle with finding ways to appreciate the good in their lives. They have to teach themselves new habits of thinking, talking and behaving. They have to find ways to focus on the good that is present in their lives rather than the bad. Very, very hard to do when you are, or have been, programmed to think of, talk about and act as if all of the bad things have and are happening to you … and yet not impossible.

If this is something that you are struggling with, check out our web site ( for some suggestions for books that might help you begin. Consider calling or emailing us, or a therapist near you, to talk over what you might do to think and feel better about yourself and your life. There are times that depression can be helped with some clear specific suggestions for change. Other times, a medical assessment may be needed. A professional can help you best decide the best direction for you. You don't have to fight this alone.

One place to begin is to end your day each night by writing down three things that you are proud of or grateful for, in your life … just that day.

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