“I’ll be happy when …. I get to size 8”
“I’ll be happy when … I pass that exam”
“I’ll be a happy when … he tells me he loves me / I get my dream job / I travel the world / I buy that car” …
So many of us spend our entire lives waiting for happiness, believing it is just around the corner, thinking we just need to try a bit harder until we find it. We chase after it like it is something that we can catch when we have achieved X, Y or Z and believe that can then keep it in a jar and it will always be ours.
But often when we pass that exam or get our dream job or travel the world, we still haven’t found happiness; we may be temporarily excited by our change of circumstance but deep down we still feel an emptiness that no perceived success will fill.
I see happiness as a type of energy; and energy, as you probably learnt in science class can neither be created or destroyed. It is always there; it is always present; it is here right now; it just depends whether we notice it or not.
I work with clients that have disorders across the entire mood spectrum, from those that suffer with pre-menstrual tension every month, to those that have dealt with debilitating depression for years; so I am the first to understand that it is a little more complex that just waking up one morning and “deciding to be happy”.
However, we all have a responsibility for ourselves and that includes our own happiness; we cannot rely on anyone else to make us happy because we should never give anyone else that power.
The main first step to uncover happiness, is to let go of the things that don’t make us happy; and that can be uncomfortable and heart breaking at first. Letting go of people, habits or places that have been in our lives for a long time but we know do not add value to it, can be incredibly hard. However, by removing the things that make us stressed or anxious or sad leaves a mental and emotional space; and if we allow that space not to be re-filled immediately with anxiety, we will notice beautiful things we haven’t noticed before and feel beautiful things that we may not have felt before.
We are responsible for not only giving ourselves space and time to notice when we feel good, so we can learn to re-do those things and re-experience that happiness; but we are also responsible for changing the aspects of our lives that create tension and are barriers to us feeling happy.
Not sure where to start? Give any of these a go ...
1. When you feel anxious, sad or depressed notice where you are, who you are with, what you are doing. Now think how to reduce your time in those places, with those people, doing those things. Ending relationships or friendships or leaving careers are monumentally life changing moves, however if you truly think these are the things preventing you feeling happy take the time to explore different avenues, don't make any quick decisions but realise that you have the power to change your story at any time.
2. Try to avoid comparing yourself to others, this may mean reducing time spent on social media where everyone appears super happy. Remember that social media is not generally real life, and people only post their “show reals.”
3. If you believe loneliness is stopping your happiness, seek out ways to meet new people and try new things; a parents group perhaps or a new exercise or art class. Something to get you outside your comfort zone and meeting like minded people.
4. If you are physically living an unhealthy life, perhaps either eating too much food or not enough, perhaps not being physically active enough or over training, it can be very difficult to be emotionally happy as the body and mind are closely synced. Start off simply by making healthy eating choices and being active for 60 minutes daily but allowing yourself to rest when you need it.
5. If you seek validation from others and rely on them to make you feel happy, perhaps you need to do some inner work to realise that only you hold the power to make you feel worthy on unworthy. Brene Brown writes some wonderful books on this subject, but perhaps consider seeing a Cognitive Behaviour Therapist who will support you with your thoughts and behaviours.
6. Realise that life is never perfect and chasing perfection sets us up for failure, but just like if we want to lose weight, we have to put time and effort in, if we want to lose the things that are making us unhappy, we have to put time and effort in.
7. Write a list of all the things that take up too much negative space in your life and another list with all the things on that you wish you had time or energy to do. Make an effort to do the things on the second list and minimise time spent on the first.
8. Every day for one month remove three materialistic things from your procession, take them to charity or sell them at a car boot. ‘Stuff” holds memories and sometimes unpleasant ones, getting rid of it will allow more room for happiness.
9. Write a list of the values you want to live by – for example – integrity, honesty, kindness – are your current choices and actions representing your actions; if not what is stopping you from living your life by these?
10. Spend time considering what your purpose is, what can you contribute to this life? What does happiness look like for you? What are the things stopping you from doing this?
Ultimately, we are never going to find happiness by chasing it; and not every day is going to be a good day, but it is within our power to look for the good in every day; because happiness is always within us, if we were just to pause for a minute and let go of the things we can’t control, we may just notice it sitting quietly on our shoulder.
Live life fully.