“When I Compare Myself with Others, My Happiness Takes a Shot in the Back.”

Happiness interview: Kelle Hampton.

Writer and photographer Kelle Hampton has a longtime blog, Enjoying the Small Things, where she writes about the simple things, with gorgeous photos alongside.

She just published her first book, Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected, about the first year of her daughter Nella’s life. When Nella was born, they discovered that she has Down syndrome, and Bloom recounts Kelle’s changing perspectives and expectations. The book is riveting, and is also accompanied with hundreds of beautiful photographs.

Kelle writes a lot about happiness, so I was eager to interview her and hear more about her thoughts on the subject.

Gretchen: What’s a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?

Kelle: Bubble baths.

 What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old? 

I know now that I am 100% responsible for my own happiness.  It is a state of mind that is cultivated by my own choices and habits, not things or people.  Yes, my children make me happy.  Yes, sitting at the beach and watching a sunset makes me happy.  But I cannot rely on other people and my environment to make me happy.  I don’t ever want to make the mistake of thinking my happiness is dependent on something–a different job, more money, another child, wood floors, a remodeled bathroom, etc.

Is there anything you find yourself doing repeatedly that gets in the way of your happiness?

Whenever I compare myself with others, my happiness takes a shot in the back.

Is there a happiness mantra or motto that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”)

I choose one-word mantras that I say out loud to myself.  Sometimes they last a year, sometimes only a couple months, and I choose them based on the events in my life and what I need to remember.  When Nella turned one and I looked back and marveled at how much I had grown that year, I went in to the new year with “capable” as my word.  I learned just how capable I was to face challenges, take care of my family, love my children and grow and, from that, I felt empowered to embrace a new year, knowing that when I struggled, I could whisper to myself, “You are capable” and believe it.  This year, I use the word “compassion” a lot.  I think compassion, whether it’s intended for others or ourselves, is kryptonite to so many negative emotions–doubt, self-analyzing, comparing ourselves to others, frustration, anger, sadness, stress, fear.  When I feel any of these emotions creeping up, I practice a quick meditation exercise, focusing on embracing these emotions but transforming them into compassion–breathing out kindness and love both for myself and those around me.

If you’re feeling blue, how do you give yourself a happiness boost? Or, like a “comfort food,” do you have a comfort activity? (mine is reading children’s books).

Music and walks.  It is a fool-proof way for me to center myself into a state of calm and gratitude.  I have an “Inspired” playlist on my iPod–songs that move me, make me happy, make me think, make me want to run twirling through the streets like Fraulein Maria in the grassy hills.  When I’m feeling down, I like to take a walk with my music.  I focus on my steps, my breathing, the sky, the sunlight and, without fail, by the time I’ve walked a couple blocks, there is an undeniable presence of more peace and more awareness of what really matters.  I like to take these walks alone, but if my husband isn’t home to watch the kids, I don’t let that stop me.  I’ve strapped my girls into the stroller many times and have told them we’re going on a “quiet walk.”

Is there some aspect of your home that makes you particularly happy? 

There are three things in my home I can’t live without–quilts, candles and photographs.  The combination of these elements tells the story of our family.  No matter how many toys are scattered on the floor or how many laundry baskets are piled up, it feels homey to me when there’s a stack of quilts on the trunk in the corner, when I can smell fig and citrus and see a little flame flickering from the bookshelf, and when I can look around and see our favorite moments and my favorite people framed on my walls.

Have you ever been surprised that something you expected would make you very happy, didn’t – or vice versa?

When I was eighteen, I signed up to be a summer camp counselor at a pediatric cancer camp.  I expected it would be nothing but heartbreaking–that I would be overwhelmed with pity and sadness, but I thought it would be good for me and I wanted to help.  At orientation, I was given my counselor pack which included my camp t-shirt.  The screen print on the back read, “Camp Catch-a-Rainbow: The Happiest Place on Earth.” And it was. There was an indescribable freedom at that camp to “just be.”  In the midst of everything these kids had gone through–sickness, hospital stays, hair loss, etc.–they came to camp because they wanted to have fun.  They talked about their illness with such honesty and courage, it made me evaluate my own life and what I had to learn.

I returned every summer for four years not just because those kids needed volunteers to help run their camp but because I craved the happiness, the laughter, the dancing, the stories, and the way each summer, I left camp feeling empowered.

Ten years later, my own personal experience of welcoming my second daughter mirrored those first camp feelings.  Certainly, raising a child with Down syndrome was something I thought would be nothing but devastating.  How wrong I was.  Sometimes, happiness can be found in the most unlikely experiences and, once again, I am reminded that happiness is not determined by things or people but by our choices and habits.  I choose to be happy.

  • http://www.mind-meditations.com/ Rachel

    I love this part: “Sometimes, happiness can be found in the most unlikely experiences…”

    • http://ripleyadoption.blogspot.com/ Alissa

      I also love that she compared compassion to kryptonite for negativity, perfect! I’m loving this article and really happy she included gratitude! Have a happy day everyone!

      Alissa
      ripleyadoption.blogspot.com

  • Jennifer Hoppins

    This story fills my heart right up to the brim with gratitude and perspective.  I had been in a terrible mood, feeling sorry for myself that my soon to be 18 year old daughter was graduating (from a school 700 miles away from our home) and had decided not to come home as I was hoping she would.  I needed to read this for the perspective that others face such enormous, overwhelming challenges and yet are lifted up in spite of what they endure. 

  • Michael

    She seems like a truly wonderful human being.  Thank you sharing.  

  • http://manifestingmydestiny.com/ Lorii Abela

    I also believe that we alone are responsible for our happiness. This story is very touching. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Karen Fritz

    Wow, this was an awesome interview.  Thanks for sharing this!  I’m off to check out her blog and her book now.

  • Jora

    Love this….especially the reminder that choices and habits make for a happy person.  

  • S_ifat

    Amazing. I just found her blog last week and I spend at laest an hour a day reading through the posts. She is amazing. her photos take my breath away. Look forward to reading her book. Thank you for that interview Gretchen.

  • melissa mg

    “Whenever I compare myself with others, my happiness takes a shot in the back.” Best Quote!   We should all remember this.

  • laylani

    I can’t wait to get her book!

  • Evie

    I completely agree that we alone are responsible for our own happiness however I think that at times you can be worn down. Though I love my teenage son very much and he is for the most part a great kid. His moodiness, touchiness and difficulty seeing other people’s side of a story just wears me down at times. I know that right now I am happy, I am very content, I feel fulfilled in my ambitions, I have a very fulfilling marriage and I feel a greater understanding of myself than at any time in my life but when my teenage son goes on one of his difficult tangents that can last a few days he can make the whole house miserable and despite the fact that I am trained to work with behaviour disorder kids I find it makes me quite upset. I tend to try to mentally distract myself and remind myself that this too shall pass. 

    • Michelle

      “this too shall pass” was my mantra when I found myself very unhappy in my job.  I made a resolution that I would find another job that suited me better and everytime I felt I couldn’t bear another minute in my job – I’d think ‘this too will pass’.  Like Kelle I also though about Compassion when I felt frustrated with my boss.  Fast forward two months and I’m in a job I love and feeling great that I took responsibility for my unhappiness :-)

  • ayearinskirts

    Love, love, love, this interview and her perspective. I’ll definitely be checking out her book. 

  • Tmunar

    I too have a daughter with a disability (autism) and she has been the light of our lives so it’s great to hear Kelle echo that sentiment.  There were times when it was really tough, I’m not going to lie, but the only way to survive and to not give into a crippling fear about my daughter’s future was to choose happiness in the present moment.

  • Lynvz

    Loved reading Kelly’s blog. Thank you Gretchen for finding and posting the most interesting web sites!
    Tomorrow my youngest “child” moves in with her boyfriend, leaving us officially empty-nesters. After reading this interview, I have be yet again reminded that it is possible to looking at an event that makes me a little sad to looking at it from another perspective. On Saturday when it is just the two of us, now, I plan on lighting candles, putting on some music and let the night just be. We may end up watching a movie like we do most weekends, but at dinner I will be able to look forward to a mini celebration.

  • http://www.lifecoachfor30somethings.com/ Shirley Oya

    What a great article!  It’s good to remember that the root of most unhappiness is from comparing our lives to others.  Also, that we can flourish even in the midst of adversity.

  • http://www.existation.com/ Rachel

    Ahhhh this is my favorite happiness interview yet! Two of my favorite blogs come together in a post of awesomeness! I love Kelle’s blog, and I also love yours. This is great. 

  • Julie

    On a small scale this reminds me of an experience with a swim team when I was younger. Why it was so “happy” there is somewhat confusing- we lost every meet we entered. But- somehow the environment was so positive, enriching and fulfilling. Why did it make us all so happy? I think it had nothing to do with anything but a decision by the leadership to be happy, carefree nad light. There sentiments rubbed off on everybody.

  • Mark

    Yes, comparison to others or some ideal often results in unhappiness for me too.  I find it helpful to remember that nobody designed or created themselves.  Whatever desirable or undesirable attributes a person was born with the choice was not theirs.  Most people do the best they can with what they have.  So why worship the gifted? Why not have some compassion for everyone including myself?

  • Mdavis1

    This may be my favorite of your interviews.  I love this woman Kelle.  She’s so inspiring in her philosophy of happiness.  Thanks.

  • http://www.rebuildyourlifecoach.com/ Harriet Cabelly

    I too have a (grown) daughter with disabilities.  Raising her has enriched my life so incredibly much.  We obviously don’t choose to have our challenges but once they’re upon us, they can truly bring us tremendous joy and satisfaction.  We need to shift our focus and look for the beauty within the difficulty; find the meaning and satisfaction in the work that’s put in to help create and bring out one’s potential.  It’s a work-in-progress and one that enhances the fabric of life. 
    I have found that some of my most challenging times and endeavors have been the biggest parts in creating the richness of my life.  I am proud of myself, as well, for coming through strong and capable. 
    This is a wonderful interview.  I follow her blog.  It is a true joy and inspiration.  And her photographs portray and magnify life’s riches and beauty.  Seek and ye shall find;  look and it is there.  

  • Jbdahdwka

    This video has the success mantra

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNvjpjY­kpUA
     

  • http://www.drpauladurlofsky.com/ Paula Durlofsky, Ph.D.

    What a great article. I agree completely with the concept that when we compare ourselves to others we lose sight of  our own happiness or ability to find it. Kudos to Kelle Hamptom!
    http://www.drpauladurlofsky.blogspot.com

  • Saltandchocolate

    I adore Kelle! Thanks so much for featuring her. I love her answers.

  • http://www.hautzentrum-hengge.de/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=52&Itemid=76 Proktologe in Düsseldorf

     that’s why posts on facebook that showing our friends doing something we wanna do make us unhappy. everytime you see a post like this you make yourself aware that other people have a great life and you don’t. always keep that in mind and that facebook doesn’t refelct the real life (the “happy people” posting also have lots of problems and those posting “cool things” in general are quite insecure about themselves).

    • Evie

      It just isn’t on Facebook. It is anytime you take even a visual snapshot of someone’s life and measure it against your own. If you are prone to grass is greener syndrome you will be unhappy. I recently got a wake up call when this person who I always secretly envied for a variety of goofy and shallow reasons and who appeared to have a picture postcard perfect life and marriage found out her husband was cheating on her with of course her best friend. All my envy flew out the window and I felt profound sadness and sympathy for her. I have always known that things are often not what they seem and actually do not suffer from grass is greener syndrome but this women just appeared so perfect I just felt that green eyed monster come out whenever I was around her! It was a real wake up call to me to appreciate the beauty I have in my life and to be deeply thankful for it.

  • inducares

    People & events will come in myriad hues & vibes;obstacles & challenges too;but it is up to us to turn them to our advantage by controlling our reactions.We can choose to be happy 
    http://jeeteraho.blogspot.in/2011/09/choose-to-be-happy.html

  • Katie

    I have no words to explain how wonderful and powerful this interview is.  Thank you for it!

  • Janell

    I am a huge Kelle Hampton fan and a devoted follower of her blog… She has taught me that choosing to love, be happy, and savor every moment is the key to having it all. No matter what happens with work, bills, schedules, ect. if you make the choice to live to the fullest you will be more than pleased with the results of your life. Love her!

  • Candice Carlson

    Love Kelle’s mentality!!! Happiness is always a choice, and I choose to be happy. The harder the situation, the more resilient you’ll become.. When the force of the world knocks you to the ground, bounce back even higher than before! Know, and believe in the universe. It works in mysterious ways, but it always has a reason for EVERYTHING! Don’t waste time worrying over things you can’t control. Be grateful. Love all your surroundings. Be humble, and soak up every second of life on this earth! Life is short, so forgive quickly, and don’t carry hatred in your heart. SPREAD LOVE, and joy will always be in your heart.

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