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Finding Happiness in a Challenging Situation

A few weeks ago, I received an email from a lovely, young man (19 years old) living in London, United Kingdom. To secure his privacy, let’s call him Arthur for this true story. Arthur had trouble finding happiness in an extremely hard situation. He read my book “The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down” and asked me for my advice. He wrote:

“For the last 3 years I have been fighting with cancer and really struggled with finding happiness. I find myself at breaking point almost every day. I need your advice.”

After reading his email, my heart went out to him, and I wanted to help him as much as I could. Being diagnosed with cancer is probably one of the most challenging human experiences, and you do not wish this on anyone, let alone a 16 year old. I first told Arther how proud I was of him for dealing with his cancer bravely for the last three years. It already showed his resilience, strength and patience. It is also wonderful that he wrote an email to me, which is a huge step in my mind. Many individuals, understandably, have a hard time reaching out to someone for help. It takes a lot of courage.

I emailed him back with two proven ways to feel happier. The first way is writing down five things to be grateful for everyday. I know that this might not always be easy when things are not going well, especially with Arthur’s situation. But if you have the intention to find grateful things in your life and then focus on them, you will soon discover many things. Keep in mind that it can be as simple and small as being able to see the blue sky, having a nice cup of tea, discovering a new song or book you like, sitting on a comfortable chair, having your favorite pizza with your family, seeing someone holding a door for you, or receiving a friendly smile from a stranger. If you can write five things to be grateful for everyday for one month, you will soon notice the difference in your life.

Another way to increase happiness is to practice one or two random acts of kindness everyday. When we are in difficult situations, we often feel as though we have nothing to offer. But that is not true. Just like the gratitude practice, it can be a very small thing. We can let someone else go first, set the table for dinner, give a compliment to someone, pick up litter, say “I love you” to your family member, give a hug or flower to someone, or tell a funny joke. As you continue to practice one or two acts of kindness everyday, you will begin to experience a much kinder gentler world. These two practices are known to reduce everyday stress, improve your health, increase self-esteem, enhance your relationships and help you sleep better at night.

Lastly, I added the following message to Arthur. “I hope you understand that you are a spiritual being temporarily experiencing a human life. Our spirit (awareness) is eternal, and we all are love in essence. I will pray for your health and happiness. Big Hugs, Haemin.” I was very happy to receive an email afterwards that he was actively carrying out the gratitude practice and that my suggestions kept a smile on his face.

If you have a hard time finding happiness in a challenging situation, I would advise you to write down five grateful things every day and carry out one or two random acts of kindness. I can promise you that they can really change your life. To start, how about writing a kind supportive message for Arthur below. That will mean so much to me and Arthur. Hopefully we can put a smile on Arthur’s face, together.

Palms Together,

Haemin Sunim



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