Most people will read probably read this and say ‘well, you don’t just decide to be happy…if it were that simple, we’d all be dancing in the streets’.
Well, yes and no. Yes, it is that simple…but being happy is not the same as being elated and in a state of constant euphoria. That is where we all go wrong, and for good reason!
That feeling of pure joy is something that we tend to crave and search for throughout our lives. It is the gold in the feeling olympics, the summit of the arduous mountain…the goal we all talk about and desire…and yet never seem to reach?
‘I just want to be happy…’ ‘As long as he/she/they are happy, I’m happy…’ ‘I’ll be happy when…’
Sound familiar? Happiness, to many of us, is this bubble of loveliness wherein all our troubles disappear, everything we’ve ever wanted is sitting in our laps and it feels as though nothing will ever go wrong again.
Spoiler alert. That feeling never lasts. Sometimes it can be so fleeting, we wonder if we actual felt it at all, and other times it can last a little longer. We love this feeling so much that some of us even pay for it, risk our lives for it, lose loved ones for it and ironically become a shell of who we once were for it.
Surely, that’s not happiness? Surely, that goes against the very nature of the word? Pushing people away and losing ourselves to be happy, just doesn’t sound right. And why is it so hard to be happy? Why are people doing these seemingly crazy things to obtain this feeling? There must be a simpler, more fulfilling and organic way?
Why can’t I be happy?
Looking back, I know that I was extremely unhappy through my teens and my early twenties. I suffered from depression, which would sometimes last weeks, months or longer but I wasn’t able to identify it as that back then. In general, I felt something was missing. I almost felt like I wasn’t really there or I was playing someone else’s life. I would often think ‘why does everything bad happen to me’, ‘why can’t I be happy…why don’t i deserve to be happy’. Of course we all deserve to be happy, but I still had the mindset that external circumstances were in control of my happiness. If I’d known back then that I could decide for myself to be happy regardless of what was going on, I would have done it in a heartbeat.
Because, let’s be honest, who enjoys being miserable and self-pitying? But in those days, it seemed like the only choice. Difficult or challenging things were happening in my life, so why wouldn’t I be miserable and feel angry at the world?
But the reality is, difficulties, challenges and painful events do happen…which is exactly why happiness as a ‘feeling’ can’t last, and finding it isn’t the end of the story.
How can I be happy?
You have to change your perspective. There has to be a complete shift within you that decides to be happy. For me, I wanted change but I had no idea where that would come from. It isn’t easy. Society and to an extent our parents bring us up to believe that happiness lies at the end of that rainbow. Whether it’s that amazing job opportunity that will take you years to study for, or ‘the one’ who will complete you and give you babies, or even a baby…(and we all know that little fairytale isn’t all about joy!). The best one is probably money. We all think it will bring us happiness to have some more cash in the bank, and I’m definitely guilty of this.
The thing is, these things can bring you joy and excitement and elation and lots of other amazing feelings, but they can also bring suffering and pain and anger and frustration. No one external factor can make you happy…no two or three external factors can make you happy.
Only you can make you happy.
This is where we take it back to the whole ‘dancing in the streets’ idea that happiness means we are filled with a warmth that never ends and a smile that stays plastered to our face.
I get angry, upset, frustrated and hurt. Why? Aren’t I happy? Yes, but I am also human. The difference is how I deal with those moments or feelings or situations, how I perceive them and how I allow them to affect me.
In the past, I would allow them to consume me and determine how I carried on with the day, week or month. I would believe that I deserved all this bad stuff somehow, and I would avoid looking at solutions, choosing escapism and other means to pretend to myself that I was OK.
It’s OK not to be OK.
Once I realized that, I was able to do something about it. There are many different tools I use now to keep myself from descending into depression or anxiety. This doesn’t mean that it won’t ever happen again, in fact I did experience some horrible anxiety recently, but what it does mean, is that most of the time…I am the one in control and I can remain that way. It is a new found freedom to choose to be happy.
It’s within us all
Happiness is a way of life. You can experience the highs and the lows and still be happy, and when I say lows, I mean lows. How can you be happy when someone close to you dies? How can you be happy when your husband or wife leaves you or you lose your job?
Again, it’s about the mindset. You still experience the pain, but you can work through it healthily and with a knowledge that everything will be OK. I lost my first son to premature birth just over two years ago, and it was the worst experience of my life, yet I am here, talking about happiness. And this is why I want to share the things I’ve learned and the exercises and tools I use to enjoy life, because I’ve spent years not enjoying it and taking things for granted and I know how that feels. Depression and anxiety are nasty conditions and they can creep up on us so quickly and yet they’ve been building for a long time.
If I can change my life and feel like me again…so can you!