I took 10 years to journey from hell to HappySpree. I wish I’d done it sooner, but a marital blizzard engulfed me. I publically smiled my frosty smile, while my soul froze from icy words.
Sadly comparing my insides to other people’s outsides created false paths lined with empty-calorie foods, alcohol, and sleeping pills. These left me hating myself in the morning.
I naively thought our kids couldn’t hear us storming upstairs behind closed doors. But then one day I opened the door…
My eyes sting as I picture my kids huddled together on the stairs wiping away tears. This sight helped me focus. We needed a happier path.
I tried saving my marriage with counseling, talking, pleading, and eventually screaming and crying. Nothing helped. My husband is a good person, but we stumbled into a toxic marriage. I needed to end my marriage and model a happier life for my kids. But how?
Naively I had left a promising technology career 18 years earlier to raise our kids and support my husband’s career. Now the thought of returning to the workforce and supporting us terrified me, but I couldn’t let these fears stop my journey.
Could I create a sunny path filled with peace, love and happiness?
I took my first step into a hopeful future and filed for divorce. Next I found Frank Clayton and his Happiness 101 Class. Frank taught me that happiness benefits family, relationships, health, creativity and workplace, and this knowledge made me eager to become happier. As my divorce proceeded, Frank suggested “stop making messes and fix old messes.” Thank you for the reality check.
Also a weekly support group helped me process my stormy emotions ( email me for more info). I discovered I needed make amends, but would anyone forgive me?
Fixing My Messes
First I needed to forgive myself, so I ended unhealthy habits and changed my thoughts from negative to positive. Then I focused on making amends to my family. My ex-husband didn’t want to see me, so I emailed my apology for hurting him and I promised to stop. He didn’t accept my apology, but I stopped beating myself up mentally and felt enough peace to move forward.
Next, one-by-one, I looked deep into my kids’ eyes. A flood of regret overwhelmed me, tempting me to run. Instead I took a deep breath for bravery and apologized. I promised to stop hurting my kids, and asked how to make amends.
My kids hugged me and forgave me as gratefulness swelled my heart. This meant I could finally stop ruminating and forgive myself.
That Christmas I received the gift I always wanted … a peaceful home.
But time slooowed when without my kids (we had joint custody). At first when my kids left, I sobbed in a puddle on the floor, felt sorry for myself, and let my emotions storm; but eventually I wanted to feel better. I had noticed people reacted to divorce in three ways:
• Permanent anger and giving up on future love
• Transforming pain into a happy new life.
I hoped for the last option, but what caused resilience, or bouncing back, after difficulty? Finding out felt critical, so I geeked-out and consulted 100+ scientific sources on happiness and well-being (email me for exhaustive list.)
Then I turned myself into a lab rat to discover what me happy. Here are several 5-star books that helped me feel better.
- Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being
- The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want
- Positive Identities: Narrative Practices and Positive Psychology
Using my research, gratitude journaling, social connections and exercise, I transformed my emotional blizzard into a happy path. I also discovered how to stay (mostly) happy, and why it’s unhealthy to aim for constant happiness. (More info in upcoming blog.)
People were shocked as sarcastic cynical me sparkled with happiness. They asked: “What the hell happened?”
When I shared my struggle, people confided about depression, negative relationships, and loneliness. They wanted help finding their happy path, but how could I help them? I recalled feeling lonely and craving happiness after my divorce. Did other lonely people seek social connection? I tested this by creating a community based on social opportunities and fun.
But would anyone join?
This group creates happiness and social connection locally but how could I reach more people? I noticed my teens and their friends would rather cut off their toe than lose their Snapchat streaks (the streak ends if users miss daily log-ons). How could I use this madness for good?
I knew gratitude journals (where people list three or more positive moments per day) are scientifically-proven to boost happiness, but people get bored and stop writing. Might gamification increase their motivation to write?
To test this idea I created a free gamified journal. I then used my favorite lab rats, my kids and me to try it. (I’m applying to Masters Programs to formally test this.)
My kids and I created more happy moments than usual, and sought silver linings in negatives. Also we created more entries than with other journals, and built social connections with meaningful shares. Ahhhhhhh my life feels much better.
Now I’m one of those crazies that say “my worst struggle created happiness!”
My hell to HappySpree ordeal taught me it’s not what happens but our choices about how we think and what we do that creates our journey, and I’m choosing a happy path. I humbly hope the same for you. So if you feel lonely, unloved, depressed, angry, lost; or just want to be happier, join our HappySpree community. It’s fast, free and easy …
• Kendeyl Johansen is a tech-geek creating multimedia content to increase happiness, wellbeing, and health for individuals and organizations.