Should we be happy all the time? What does it mean if you aren’t happy? What are you doing in an effort to get happy and stay happy?
This podcast episode has been on my heart for a while. I knew I wanted to talk about what I call THE HUSTLE FOR HAPPINESS.
This has been one of my harder lessons in life – a lesson that came to me through parenting and feeling like I was losing the race for happiness way too often.
It is also a lesson I have the pleasure of teaching other women in life coaching.
I call the episode ‘How to Be Happy’ but as you will hear, it is about something so much better than happiness.
One of the biggest parenting myths I’ve had to unlearn is that if your kids are happy it means you are doing it right. Other related myths include – ‘happiness is what we should feel’ or ‘when we aren’t happy we are doing it wrong.’ On today’s episode, I want to unpack these happiness myths and share some of the things I’ve learned about happiness along my years of motherhood and womanhood.
Here are the topics covered in this episode:
- How my crying infant taught me a hard parenting lesson
- Why we need to stop hustling for hyper happiness
- Why it’s okay if your kids (or you or your husband) aren’t happy
- The unrealistic demands of happiness
- Three ways to be happier while enjoying the life you have
- Something even better than happiness
- How we are biologically driven towards happiness
- How to look for Perfect Moments
- Watching the stories we tell ourselves about being happy
The relentless pursuit of happiness can be exhausting, especially for us as wives and mothers. But it doesn’t have to be that way! I hope these insights and simple tips will release you from the pressures of being happy and chasing happy and allow you to embrace your whole life – even all the messy, not-so-happy parts.
If you would like to learn how to have more peace, purpose and presence in your life, I invite you to join The Life on Purpose Academy, my monthly group coaching program. This month, I’ve been teaching and coaching on the topic of coping with negative emotion. And I can’t tell you how much freedom I see the ladies experiencing as they learn that they don’t have to hustle for happiness. This coming month, I’m teaching on enjoying your life on purpose because I believe we can all experience enjoyment of our lives, even if they don’t always feel good. Check out The Life on Purpose Academy.
How to Live Your Actual Life // blogpost
Simple on Purpose Community // Facebook Group
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is the myth that if your kids are happy, it means you’re doing it right.
Contentment is being able to find the joy despite the discomfort while happiness demands comfort.
FULL TRANSCRIPT OF THE EPISODE
The SIMPLE ON PURPOSE PODCAST Episode 66 // How to Be Happy By Shawna Scafe
0:06 Hey friends! Welcome to Simple on Purpose. I’m Shawna, your nerdy girlfriend and life coach from SimpleonPurpose.ca. If you are new here, welcome! And if you are a subscriber, I’m so glad to see you again on another Saturday, where we can stop and think about things that make our life more simple and more purposeful. 0:23 To let you know a little bit about me, if you’re new here, I am a mom of three in small town Canada. And my whole mission is to help women simplify their home heart and life. So as we wrap up July, we’re wrapping up the July on Purpose Challenge. Many of you have been a part of it. It’s been in the Facebook group. I shared a little bit on Instagram. And what we did is we spent four weeks working on one area of our life each week. So the first area was home. And a project that I completed in my home during that week was cleaning my dresser off. I think that bedroom dresser is just like the dumping grounds of the most random crap that we think we will deal with like oh, we’ll put it on the dresser, and then we’ll do something about it. But this is a lie we tell ourselves! Once it’s on that dresser, guys, it just doesn’t exist anymore. It’s in the abyss. It’s in the timezone of our bedroom and it is no longer going to be dealt with. So note to myself, don’t put stuff on my dresser that I want to actually deal with. I have to keep it on the counter in the kitchen where it will drive me crazy and I’ll do something about it. 1:22 So July on Purpose. We’ve also been working on time. One of the projects that we did for time for that week was set out weekly plans with the kids when I had my week with them. And I shared a bit about that in the Facebook community group. And we’ve also been working on self and family. A thing that we have started in our family for July is teaching the kids how to cook for themselves. They have been cooking things like eggs and grilled cheese and we’re probably going to upgrade it to you know mac and cheese, getting a little bit crazy. And they’ve actually cooked food for themselves and for each other. It’s been really, really cool. You can hear them in the background. This is just life. I am getting work done when there’s someone around But the kids are always home. You guys know the deal. 2:02 So I want to talk a little bit today about something I learned in parenting. Parenting has brought me so many lessons – painful lessons, hard lessons, lessons, I probably couldn’t have learned any other way other than through parenting. This has been my journey. This has been how I’ve learned my lessons. This has been where I’ve met Jesus in many ways, like, Jesus, take the wheel. It’s something I’m saying often in my life. 2:24 One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is the myth that if your kids are happy, it means you’re doing it right. Which is just like a thought we have generally as we go about our day, and we want to keep our kids happy. But what’s underneath that thought, that if our kids are happy, it means we’re doing it right, are other beliefs, like happiness is what we should feel. And when we aren’t happy, we’re doing it wrong. In life coaching, I aim to help women enjoy their actual lives and part of that means letting go of this hustle for hyper happiness. 2:57 So I want to unpack that some more here. I’m going to share with you the things I’ve learned about happiness along my years of motherhood, and like womanhood really; this isn’t just for moms. I’m going to share with you three steps for bringing more happiness into your everyday life. I’ve called this episode how to be happy. But as you’re going to see, and as we talk about it, it really isn’t about happiness. I think it’s about something so much better. 3:20 So the first part that I’m going to open with is an old blog post I shared years ago, called something like, a hard lesson I learned from parenting. Something like that. There’s been a lot of blog posts I’ve written over the years and then taken them down as time went on. So this is one of them that’s from the archives. 3:38 Parenting has been something that really made me peel back rigid layers of myself. I thought parenting would add layers of certainty and strength. But it turns out, you need to allow your weaknesses to exist in tandem with your strengths as a mother. If I had it my way, my kids would blindly obey me, eat all the dinners I make, never argue and start folding their own laundry. As I say that I know full well I would hate being this parent. My kids would never learn to develop their own independence, listen to their bodies, seek toddler-style justice and just like be kids. 4:12 Of the lessons I’ve been learning about being a mother, there were some I learned against my pride-soaked will. One of those hard lessons I learned was when we first had Lenayah, my second child. She was born 16 months after my firstborn, and she was the opposite of her laid back, happy older brother. She cried all the time, never settled for longer than 20 minutes, fought and arched during nursing and was just so inconsolable. I would later find out that she had esophagitis and that going off gluten and dairy helped ease the symptoms. But even after that diet change, she still struggled to move past those first four months of fighting for comfort. I dreaded being alone with her because I felt so helpless and depleted. All of my anxious tendencies and my own incompatibility with discomfort were exaggerated under the stress of being her mom. She wasn’t at fault for this. I just hit a wall on how to deal with it. The worst time of each day was bedtimes. I would be in her room rocking and nursing her from 7pm to 11pm. I would run through every possible combination of comfort techniques I could think of all for the sake of trying to settle her to sleep for longer than 20 minutes. My head was just scrambled with thoughts about my inability to parent. I was consumed with frustration that I couldn’t help my poor baby. My role of wife, of woman, of friend was just being swallowed up by all of my attention and desperation to just have some of my old self back. A white knuckled grip I had on how I thought parenting should be was twinned by my constantly clenched jaw. And then God started to whisper some softness and grace into my life. Through rocking and bouncing and shushing, and swaddling, I heard: “You can’t always fix. Sometimes you just have to be there for them.” 6:05 So I just sat with her, just held her through our tears. I was at a loss, not because I was a poor mom, not because she was broken, but because there’s just some things you can’t fix. Sometimes you just hold hands through the tough times, rather than find a shortcut to an easier road. 6:23 If you ask most parents, they will say all they want is for their kids to be happy. Of course, we all want that. But what does this goal of happy kids do to our parenting? Our culture has an unwritten rule. Good, happy moms make good, happy kids. Moms buy into this; I did. And it casts a shameful shadow on all those times that we will inevitably struggle. 6:46 This was the first time in my life that I challenged this idea that I should be running this constant race for happiness. A race that I was running because I thought it was the right thing. A race that was exhausting me, a race that I was losing some days and that made me feel like a failure. I now call this hustling for happiness and we all do it. We all equate happiness with goodness, rightness, success. But I’ve been learning this is far from the truth. When I took myself out of the race, I saw a woman who was chasing happiness because she was fearfully uncomfortable with the discomfort or negative emotions in herself and in others. I’ve stopped defining my success as a human, a mum or wife based on how happy I am, or how happy my husband is or how happy my kids are. Because happiness feels great, but isn’t it isn’t the only thing that feels great. You know what else feels great determination and confidence and commitment and compassion. 7:44 They just come with so much more effort and maybe less dopamine, or at least that’s what we tell ourselves, right? Because really, it’s happiness that takes a lot of effort. Happiness is when everything is right. When the bills are paid, the sun is shining. The kids are not frenemies for five minutes. You and your husband haven’t fought over yard work yet and and and… Happiness is demanding. It wants to have everything it wants, even if what it wants is not going to make your life better. 8:14 Take our kids’ happiness. For instance, a kid is happy when you say yes to whatever they want whenever they want it. It’s not going to make their lives better, like hot dogs every day and never wearing pants and only using a certain kind of toothpaste for the rest of your life won’t make your life better, but it’s going to probably make you happy for the next hour. We really want to be happy all the time. After all, it is one of the three jobs of our brain. 8:39 Our brain has three jobs – the motivational triad – to seek pleasure, avoid pain, be efficient. We are trying constantly to get happy and maintain happy. So I don’t know about you, but when I was in that state, I would get a little bit obsessive about controlling all of the variables to make sure happiness happens and happiness is kept. Like, let’s monitor the blood sugar levels of our kids, the playlist volume, get the favorite toys, the perfect weather, the good attitudes. We try to control all the things and all the people to make the conditions perfect for happiness because again, it is demanding. Is our life actually any better in all our attempts to hustle for happiness? I think this is the most painful part. We do all the quote unquote, right things and we still aren’t happy, often because of how we’ve acted along the way to make it happen. But also because happiness is circumstantial and temporary. This is why I started the Perfect Moments project, something I’ve talked about before, something I’ve written about on the blog. In between hustling for happiness in myself and in my family, I was catching these moments where things actually work quite perfect. Without me manufacturing it. Right? Do you hear that? Without me doing anything other than simply observing it. 9:36 I started to have eyes for it. For those moments where the kids were sitting on the back porch while I listened to some music in the kitchen. To the moments I caught Connor dancing with our little girl to a George Strait song in the living room. To that moment when I sat with my morning coffee watching the kids build a blanket for it. I had nothing to do with making these things happen. Maybe I said yes to allowing them to happen. But really all I needed to do is pay attention and appreciate them. 10:26 Here’s three things I’ve learned about how to be happy. The first one is focus more on contentment than happiness. This is what I think is better than happiness because contentment is being able to find the joy despite the discomfort and happiness demands comfort. It comes with its own checklist of everything that needs to happen, how people need to talk, how people need to act, how we need to feel, but contentment is working on your spirit and your heart to reframe your relationship with your world. Happiness can be found amongst contentment, for sure, but contentment is deeper and more hopeful. And more open to experiencing life without assuming the worst. 11:04 It is a practice. It takes a lot of practice to develop contentment, to learn contentment. 11:10 The second thing is to look for the perfect moments in your daily life. They’re always there just shimmering past you. If you want to see some of mine, I’ve put them on Instagram with the hashtag #theperfectmomentsproject. But what I really want you to think about here is that when you start looking for it, you will see it. Kind of like when you buy a vehicle or when someone asks you about a red car, look for a red car. Suddenly your brain finds them everywhere. But they didn’t just suddenly appear; they’ve always been there. Your brain had filtered them out before. So finding it, seeing it means asking, looking for it, removing the filter that doesn’t see them normally. 11:49 And the third thing is to pay attention to the story you tell yourself about happiness. Don’t make it mean everything has gone wrong when you aren’t happy. As Russ Harris, the author of The Happiness Trap, explains, “The default mode of the brain is not happy. Our brains are wired for survival. Our brains have a negativity bias that is constantly doing what I call scanning for danger.” And when I say that I’m definitely challenging that scene in Lego Batman when Batman is at the gates of Lego Heaven, and the like robot in the sky is scanning him for badness. Okay, Lego Batman is a good show if you like Will Arnett. Tt is pretty funny. If you were into Arrested Development, then you’ll probably like Lego Batman. 12:32 Anyways, so our brain will always be scanning for what could go wrong so it can do its job of keeping us safe and alive. It’s very primal. But when our brain is having freak outs about everything that is wrong, phew, we could just thank it for working so hard for us, like let it take a coffee break. Paying attention to the story you tell yourself about happiness and watching your brain look for what could go wrong and knowing that it’s still okay, it’s definitely a skill worth practicing every day. Through life coaching, through my own life, something that I believe is that we all need to get better at feeling uncomfortable, and I’ve written a post about it. It’s called How to Live Your Actual Life. And I’ll link that in the show notes. 13:13 This month in the Life on Purpose Academy, my monthly group coaching program, I’ve been teaching and coaching on the topic of coping with negative emotion. And I can’t tell you how much freedom I see the ladies experiencing as they learn that they don’t have to hustle for happiness. I’m giving them tools to become better at feeling these things they view is negative. When we can feel it, we can process it in healthier and more helpful ways. We can all get better at learning to feel uncomfortable, feel negative, because then it’s not the scary thing we have to run away from. It’s not the contrast of happiness. And we can also teach these skills to our kids too. Rather than trying to talk them out of their emotions and hustling them to maintain their happiness, they as well can get better at processing the emotions they actually have, rather than being handed down the myths, that they are wrong and their life is wrong if they aren’t always happy or if happiness does not come easily. So let’s all drop the measuring stick of happiness as whether it means you are good or right or successful. Let’s drop the pressure on those around us to maintain a state of happiness. Because life isn’t always happy and easy, and parenting especially, it’s uncomfortable, and it’s reckless with our emotions. So let’s take ourselves off the hook for being humans who experience human emotion. Nothing has gone wrong if you aren’t happy all the time. This coming month in the Life on Purpose Academy, I’m teaching on enjoying your life on purpose, which I’ve put intentionally after the coping with negative emotions topic so we can learn to tolerate uncomfortable emotions rather than jumping the gun on this work, beelining straight for the race to be happy. And I want to teach this topic because I believe we can all experience enjoyment of our lives, even if they don’t always feel good. This is one of my core missions as a life coach to moms to help them enjoy their actual lives. So I’ll be teaching on the hurdles to enjoying our daily life, the thought traps that we’re up against, the science of happiness and the practical steps we can take to show up a little more each day and practice becoming women who enjoy our lives on purpose. 15:22 If you’ve been thinking about joining the Life on Purpose Academy, this is a great month to join. And if you think I could be the coach for you, I’d love to support you there. This monthly program is one of the most affordable ways you can get teaching and weekly coaching from a trained life coach. Like just one coaching session with me privately is double the price of the monthly subscription. Plus you get access to all the past classes and all the call replays where you watch other moms getting coached on topics like stress, perfectionism, negative self talk, value space parenting, productivity and just so much more. We cover so much. Just these call replays alone have so much value in hearing other moms get coached on issues that we can all see showing up in our own lives. So if you think the Life on Purpose Academy is for you, then go to lifeonpurposeacademy.ca and join the other moms who are learning to show up for their actual lives with more peace, purpose and presence. That is the slogan of the Life on Purpose Academy helping moms show up for their lives with more peace, purpose and presence. 16:23 It has been a pleasure to talk to you guys about how to be happy, hustling for happy. Watch yourself. Watch the story you’re telling yourself about happiness. And if you have questions about it, you want more clarification, feel free to reach out to me on Instagram. I am on Instagram at simpleonpurpose.ca. All right, guys, have a great week.