How to be happy where you are, with what you have, and in your circumstances when you wish things were different

hands holding hot cup of coffee or tea in morning sunlight

This is a post that I’ve been wanting to read for months. 😉

Life isn’t perfect for me over here in my home, and I know it’s not for you either, wherever it is that you are.

But the way that it works when you sit in your own home, thinking about someone else sitting in theirs, is that you think they did all their dishes before going to bed, and that they didn’t leave clothes in the dryer after they were finished drying, and that they woke up with a perfect complexion.

And I’m willing to bet quite a lot that none of that is true.

You’ve gotta believe me!

What we’re dealing with in our home is similar to what everyone else is dealing with in their home… and everybody is dealing with something.

That’s important to remember. Even if our crosses don’t look the same.

And that’s been really helpful for me to remind myself of I get down and start playing the comparison game — which, by the way, nobody wins! 😉

So I’ve been dealing with some stuff here in our home for the past couple of years that I wish were different… things like imperfect health, things like the fact that we don’t have babies (yet!), things like wishing we had a nicer couch.

And to be honest, I’ve been praying for these things to change.

But to be equally as honest, I’m not sure when they will or if they will.

So I’ve been really focusing on how I can be happy with these things exactly as they are.

Because I NEED to be joyful. I need it for myself, for my husband, for our future children, and for our families & friends. I need it because it’s a part of my vocation, and it’s a part of Heaven — a huge part, and so I’ve gotta start practicing joyfulness here while I can.

Sort of like prepping for the final exam and all.

And you know I’ve been doing this. I’ve written about it before.

But now I want to tell you what’s worked for me as I’ve been trying a few different things to intentionally help me be happier with my life, my health, and our circumstances & surroundings just as they are.

Recognizing the Things I Do Have More Than The Things I Don’t

This might sound really silly, but one thing I’ve been doing that has seemed to make a huge difference in me being happier with things just as they are is recognizing the things I like that I do have in my life, and talking —  out loud — about those things. For instance, when I walked into my living room the other day, I said out loud, so my husband could hear me, “Oh my gosh, wow! Look at this beautiful and comfy living room! I love it!”

And I do. I really do like our living room.

There are a few things I would change about it or tweak, and maybe a few things I wish we could buy new (like that couch!), but there are plenty of things I love about it.

Screenshot 2015-12-22 at 7.59.37 AMAnd instead of looking at that couch with disdain, I can look at the painting above it and be really pleased. It’s all about perspective, or direction, really — wherever we’re letting our eyes look, our hearts & minds will see it! It can either see the couch we don’t like, or that painting above it, that we do. So we should be extra careful with where we’re looking — what we’re looking for, and what we’re letting ourselves see…

If you’re struggling with saying positive things, and you feel like you more habitually are thinking the negative things, then the best piece of advice I can give you would be to hand those thoughts over to Jesus the second you think ’em.

“Take negative thoughts captive daily, and make them obedient to Christ. It’s good housekeeping for the soul.” (Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith)

And if you can say those more positive thoughts out loud, it actually counts more than just thinking those things!

Really! By telling my husband, out loud, what I like and enjoy about our home, it’s almost like I hear it twice — I hear myself say it, and I hear myself telling it to my husband, and then my brain sort of takes that in, and says, WOW, you DO love your living room… and then I believe it more.

Here’s an interesting note for ya: talking out loud improves memory retention (so if I say it now, I’ll remember that I love it later!).

Screenshot 2015-12-16 at 5.51.12 PMAnother way to do this is to write down the things you’re grateful for; it’s been proven time & time again to improve your happiness by recognizing the things that already bring you joy in your life.

My husband & I have been doing this together this month leading up to Christmas; writing little thank you notes & love notes, and things we’re grateful for & about one another — and in our home. And I can tell you that I already feel like I’ve benefited from this! We haven’t even read what we’ve each written, but just the act of thinking about it and writing it down has got my mind thinking more about the things I love rather than the things I don’t.

Taking Care of the Things — And People — I Do Have In My Life

We may not have the nicest things or most expensive things; most of what we own is second-hand. But it all still works, does what we need it to do, and most things are still beautiful. Even if they are a little old. And by taking care of these things — by dusting, vacuuming, putting things back into the places they belong — and creating places for things so they have a spot to belong in, has really helped me to value what we do own. And when I value it, I’m more grateful for it. And then I take care of it better. And it’s sort of like a cycle of gratitude & happiness.

This point really reminds me of my Mom. She always taught me to take care of what you have — even, and maybe most especially, if it’s very little or not very nice. You don’t need a lot and it doesn’t have to be the best, but it’s nice when what you do have is well taken care of — then, you can enjoy it more. Then, it lasts longer. 

Screenshot 2015-12-22 at 7.58.34 AMThe same can probably be said for relationships; you don’t need a lot of them, but you probably want some high-quality ones (like your marriage!) and some close friends. If you want those to be better, or if you want to be happier with them, you have to take care of them as they are. Value them. Prioritize them. Dust them off once in a while. Check in with them; how are things going? How can I be a better wife, sister, friend to you? Those are the questions to be asking yourself instead of complaining that things aren’t as you wish they would be… and I’m telling you that from experience! 😉 It’s the work on ourselves — the changing we do ourselves — that changes our relationships the most.

Save Myself From The Comparison Game

A few weeks after I created an Instagram account, I was talking to my best friend, and I told her how Instagram can quickly make me Insta-envious.

It’s hard for me to see photo after photo of beautifully decorated homes that have holiday decorations from Pottery Barn, or to see photos of families one right after the next — growing families, or to see photos of couples buying great, big huge houses, or going on extravagant dates.

I want to be happy for all those families and couples, but I also need to guard my heart from being envious of them, and feeling bitter about what I don’t have.

I do this by limiting what I look at; the blogs I read, the people I follow on Instagram, or even the conversations I join in on Facebook. I know my heart, and it’s a sensitive one, and so I have to be extra careful not to spend too much time looking at what other people have — whether that’s pretty home decor or adorable toddlers. I’m happy for you if you have these things — or at least, I’m working on being happy for you 😉 #Honestly 😉 I’m always working on it.

Staying Present In The Moment

This last one can be such a struggle! It’s easy to dwell on the future with hope that things will be different, but then that seems to make the time — here and now — pass either more slowly, or very quickly… and in both cases, it’s like I’m stealing the present away from myself by thinking about the future.

And you usually only hear that when people are talking about the past 😉

We’re blessed to have every single moment that we do, and when I begin to think about the moments I waste away by being wistful about those things and people that aren’t in my life right now, I feel guilty… guilty that I’m not recognizing God’d goodness, beauty, and Love today in my life with things just as they are.

It’s not as if He hasn’t been around, and that He’ll suddenly be around in 5 or 10 years from now when things are different.

And to be honest, if I’m not seeing Him now, and if I’m not paying Him attention now, there’s no reason to think I would do it if I did have those things I wish I had. I see this time now as a time to prep for the future, but not to dwell on it. A time to work on my relationship with Him, not to think about the ones I don’t have.

He is here with me. Right now. In this very moment. He’s an anchor. If I let Him, He can hold me down in this very moment. That’s sort of what prayer seems to do, right? It holds you down in that moment, makes you present, but it also lifts you up — up closer to Him.

So here, I would say the key to staying present is to stay praying.

Screenshot 2015-12-22 at 8.17.18 AM

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  • Amber

    I struggled so with comparing what my husband and I had to what others had. And other always had more, bigger, better. Homes, furniture, vacations, etc. Our incomes were the same. How can they have more, do more, etc. I told a Priest during confession that I really struggled with this. He told me that people were like glaciers and you can only see the top but there is so much more underneath. And what people are showing on the outside is only the good stuff, not the struggles. It completely changed my perspective. Those people still have bigger, nicer, better, and more. But it doesn’t bother me. I’m happy with what i have. I do still struggle with the health issues I have been praying for to just be healed in my body which haven’t. But I think that it has improved since going to a healing mass and say SO many prayers.

    I pray that your health improves, and children join you family. And that new couch would be nice too. Merry Christmas to your family.

    • catholicwifecatholiclife

      That is so very true. Thank you for sharing this with me! Thank you for your prayers as well, and Merry Christmas to you!

  • cathmom

    Annie
    this coming year I will be sure to pray for you a lot so that you will be blessed with the babies your heart desires. I have been there. Many years ago and I now have 3 college aged kids. I will not pray for a new couch for you. ..why? Because young children destroy couches so you may as well keep that old couch for now!

    • catholicwifecatholiclife

      Hahaha 🙂 thank you!

  • Sarah

    This was fantastic. I could relate on many levels, and you said it well. Thank you! Merry Christmas!

    • catholicwifecatholiclife

      Thank you, Sarah! Merry Christmas to you!!

  • Marcia Kukral Gimeson

    I am so grateful for your blogs. Today’s was the most relevant to what I find myself doing–wishing for something else. It is contagious. I find myself wanting things that ours have. I know that is so counter-productive. I cannot work toward improvement if I do not accept where I am and what I have as being what the Lord needs of me at this time. Thank you for such an insightful way of explaining human nature.

    • catholicwifecatholiclife

      🙂

  • Sharon

    “Cathmom” is definitely right about the sofa! We have never had new furniture and I have learned to take pride in my creativity rather than my actual belongings — putting together a semblance of a cohesive look in my home with the hand-me-downs that have come my way over the years. While I kept things clean, it was also easier not to stress about the normal kid messes and spills that have graced my home over the years. We spent a number of years before our children came along, too — wondering if it would ever happen! With a great deal of prayer and humility, I can truly say that God’s timing is perfect. Have faith: He will bless you. Merry Christmas to you both and my prayers are with you

    • catholicwifecatholiclife

      That’s beautiful to hear 🙂 Thank you for sharing it with me!

  • Sabrina

    Beautifully real and spot on! Thank you!!! Merry Christmas!

    • catholicwifecatholiclife

      Thank you, Sabrina, and Merry Christmas to you too!

  • Yes to all of this! My husband and I are both not where we want to be career-wise and are forced to wait. My fertility issues are another area where we can’t change our circumstances; again, we’re forced to wait.
    But you bring up so many great tools to strengthen trust in God. I’m reminded so much of Zechariah during the lead up to Christmas; I’m feeling muted, but soon God’s glory will be revealed! ☺️

    • catholicwifecatholiclife

      I love that last bit — haven’t thought of it like that, but I like it!

  • Franeasa

    This is so honest and real!! God is so good! Your post was perfect timing in my life right now!!

    • catholicwifecatholiclife

      I’m so glad to hear that, Franeasa! 🙂

  • Candace

    I’m so glad you wrote this post because I think we all struggle with this. I’m reading a GREAT book that really helps with the issues you just discussed. It’s called “Interior Freedom” by Jacques Philippe. I highly recommend it!

  • Nena

    I am so glad I read this! It is always of comfort to know others – if not everyone – is going to the same struggles that we are. Your post has brighten my day, I have been applying this same strategies for the last couple of months and it feels so good to say, I AM HAPPY! Thank you so much for sharing. I also learned early on that our Lord has only 3 answers, YES, NO or the hardest WAIT. It was when I had already been through all kinds of infertility treatments and had accepted that I was not going to be able to have children, cried myself to sleep and agreed with my husband that we would adopt that the Lord said YES. I am the proud mother of a 17 year old and 8 year old. I know the Lord will answer your prayers soon. God bless you and again thank you for this beautiful blog!