Finding happiness in difficult situations

When we are young, happiness is an automatic state of being. As we grow into adulthood, fear, worry and stress become our automatic state.

Life is a series of moments, interactions, and experiences. We cannot control the world around us but we can control our inner world. Our personal external world is often a reflection of our internal state. When we feel overwhelmed, pressured, stressed or unhappy, we view the world around us through that lens. With our focus on the chaos, and the negativity around us, we attract more chaos and negative situations, creating a spiral of negative feelings and experiences.

As we deal with a difficult situation, or find ourselves having an unpleasant experience, in that moment, trying to find a happyTree divided - on the left bright summer sun, green leaves, on the right, white blanked of snow place can feel impossible. As humans, we have automatic reactions that we have been conditioned towards, based on the village that raised us. If someone sneezes, your instinct without thought is to say, “Bless you.” In the same way, when you have been hurt, you may find yourself expecting each person you encounter to want to hurt you. Our personal conditioning is what shapes the way we interact with and react to people and situations, and determines whether we get triggered.

We can train ourselves to have a joy-first focus, teaching ourselves to look for anything good about a situation or to find anything in our life that brings good thoughts and feelings. It could be petting your cat, listening to your favorite artist, or even eating chocolate! The idea is to teach ourselves to automatically reach for something better so that when we find ourselves dealing with tough situations, we have the tools in place to change the direction of the encounter or interaction.

Stopping the negative spiral before it gets momentum can completely shift the outcome of any situation. We change our perspectives, can respond with more clarity and, when warranted, even observe the points of view of others and where they are coming from. All this allows us to move through the difficulty in an entirely different way than when we are in a negative and triggered mental state.

Each of our definitions of happiness and joy differs, and sometimes we may not even know what makes us happy. Spend this week actively looking for things that make you smile, feel relaxed and bring you happiness – people, places, objects, food; things you can see, hear or experience. If you are so inclined, create a happiness journal, writing down anything and everything that brings you happiness, peace or joy. When life get overwhelming, you can open your journal and go through the list, pausing on each thing and immersing yourself in the memory and the feelings that said memory brought.

Focus on finding something to smile about through the day, every day. Life is full of hidden surprises – we just need to choose to look for the magical moments around us.

What is on your happiness list? Share something that made you smile today.

Many Blessings,



This debut memoir chronicles a woman’s spiritual exploration and growth as she overcame a disturbing childhood and helped others heal.

Brought to America from the Dominican Republic as a youngster, Molina-Marshall should have led a happy life. Her father was a diligent worker, and his large family wanted for nothing. But the author recounts that her dad had a drinking problem and was a serial philanderer. Molina-Marshall’s long-suffering mother left him for a woman. Then it was all downhill for the bright, 12-year-old girl, who was shuttled between foster care and relatives. According to the author, she was sexually abused by the husband of one of her siblings. This resulted in Molina-Marshall becoming alienated and moody. By 15, she simply tried to survive. In her favor were grit and a restless intelligence. She quit school, rented a room, and found a factory job. Time went by, and for a while she was happily married. Yet when her husband left her, her life truly began. She turned to religion for answers but decided that blaming God for her woes was a cop-out. 

In this absorbing and moving memoir, Molina-Marshall’s vivid storytelling is fearless. She frankly discusses the truths she discovered and the indignities she suffered. These admissions are disclosed with a touch of resignation and plenty of bite. However painful, everything she experienced was a lesson, and she bravely realized that she was part of the problem: “The fear of being hurt, rejected, or abused often led to me feeling lonely and misunderstood. No one knew the agonizing pain I felt being trapped in my thoughts and anger. I was becoming my biggest threat.” 

The author skillfully recounts her intricate spiritual journey. To deal with her psychic wounds, she searched for an inspirational system. Her open-mindedness led her to the interfaith concept—cherry-picking from various religions and spiritual movements, yoga, and Indigenous beliefs as a way of finding peace. Along with her female partner, she built a therapy practice, making use of every spiritual element that aided her and others. The road was bumpy, and she found that women of color in same-sex relationships were not welcomed everywhere. To do good works—and finally live on her own terms—she effectively overcame bigotry.

An engrossing, cathartic account of empathy and success through determination and confidence.

Pub Date: May 3, 2022   |    ISBN: 978-0-578-38315-6  |   Page Count: 264    | Publisher: From Trauma to Triumph  |   Review Posted Online: June 13, 2022