This past week, I was faced with a few people in my life who were not happy, and it got me thinking about my own battle with “happiness”. When people ask me “how can you be so happy all of the time?”, I have to laugh. Am I? I hadn’t noticed.
Happiness is not a goal
To be honest, I try not to think about happiness as being a goal. To me, it’s just a state of being. I carry it around inside of me. It’s that one part of me that I can always rely on to carry me through. Some call it faith. Some call it resilience. I call it a desperate attempt at staying grounded. After all, if I can’t rely on myself, who among you can take my place? Who would even want to?
Life is unpredictable
Life gets wild, doesn’t it? Something bad happens…then something good happens…then nothing happens for long stretches of time. Then something bad happens like six times in a row, knocking us on our backside. Then nothing for a long time…you know what I’m talking about. You’ve been there too. Some days, it’s hard to find the good in anything, much less be happy about it.
I’m just like you
I’ve experienced it all, just like you have. I had a traumatic brain injury that took five years to recover from and I’ve never fully recovered. I’ve lost loved ones, friends, and pets. I’ve been fired. I’ve started over again and again. I’ve been dirt poor. I’ve been divorced twice. I’ve been involved in domestic violence, been sexually assaulted, and had my share of family drama. I’ve been bullied, called names like cow and pig. I’ve been told I wasn’t Christian enough, wasn’t praying hard enough, and had a pastor tell me I wasn’t reading my Bible with spirit-filled eyes, so I was unable to understand the Word. I’ve been clinically depressed (for those that aren’t familiar, that means I was wondering if my life was worth living anymore). I’m still here.
Throughout all of this and more, the one thing that always pops up first is my happiness. My internal joy. It’s that little piece of you inside that says, “Nope…not quitting. Nope…not laying in bed another day. Nope…not allowing this person to ruin my life. Nope…not giving away my power”.
Looking for happiness in all the wrong places
You won’t find happiness in your environment. It’s not there.
I used to think that my family was my happiness. Then they started passing away. When I lost my cousin, I thought I’d never experience happiness again, and yet I was. How???
Then I thought maybe being in love was my happiness. Being in love feels soooo good, doesn’t it? But then I was betrayed and I found myself divorced. I felt like a failure and believed my happiness was gone, but it wasn’t. It popped back up. How???
The day I was fired I was humiliated. I’d NEVER been fired. Heck, I’d never even been written up! This was unfair! Life was totally unfair!!! And yet…there was my happiness…bouncing around in my chest. Even though my ego was so attached to my line of work, I realized that work was not my happiness generator.
Bit by bit, piece by piece, experience after experience, I began to see that happiness didn’t come from the environment. My environment was like a roller coaster. Roller coaster UP, roller coaster DOWN…UP…DOWN…and I couldn’t get off the ride. I had to just close my eyes and bear it. So why was I so happy???
This is far from scientific, more like Dear Abby
I have no proof of what I’m about to say, only personal experience, and since everyone is different, this may not apply to everyone reading this blog today. HOWEVER…I’m going to say it regardless because if it helps one person, then my job is done. I don’t write this blog to touch a hundred people, I write this blog to touch one person a hundred times. So you…this blog’s for you, whoever you are.
Get out of your own head
My happiness stems from my interactions with others. When I am of service to others, it fills my tank. When my tank gets low, I get irritable, fatigued, depressed, and sad. When I say “others”, I don’t necessarily mean people. I feed wild birds, I feed and shelter feral cats…some people plant flowers and tend to their needs…we adopt dogs that have special needs…some people foster children in crisis, or are active in service organizations like Kiwanis or their church home. Serving others doesn’t necessarily mean volunteer work, although it can.
Take your body, your mind will follow
The other thing I do is keep moving and eat well. I know, I know. When you are depressed the last thing you want to do is move. It’s hard enough, getting from the bed to the couch and back. I get it. Take your body and your mind will follow. Just go. Screw up all the intention you can and just tell yourself it’s not a choice, you HAVE to go for a short walk. Tell yourself it’s just around the block and home. That’s it, that’s all. Trust me when I tell you that block will eventually turn into a mile.
Are you really hungry?
That salad you can’t stand to eat? Keep eating it. Eventually, you will crave it and you won’t want anything else. Start with an apple. Start with half an apple. Just do it. Tell yourself that if you are truly hungry, you will eat an apple. If all you want is a box of donuts, then you don’t need to eat anything, you are only eating your emotions.
What’s love got to do with it?
The “happily ever after” that you keep searching for to complete you? Don’t be deceived. The CDC tells us that out of every 1,000 people in our country, only 6.1 will get married. Out of that 6.1, 2.7 will get divorced. Only 3.4 people out of every 1,000 will get married and stay married. Being in a committed relationship isn’t a clear path to happiness, so deciding to be happy when and if you fall in love and get married is in my opinion, going to be a long wait. In the meantime, where will your happiness come from? Some of the loneliest people I know have a lot of friends and family that love them.
That elusive happiness
If you find yourself saying, “I’ll be happy when…” Stop. No, you won’t. Maybe for a bit, but it will pass. That next vacation, that next new outfit, that next lover, that next car, truck, or tractor, forget it, all of it. If you weren’t happy when you started out, you won’t be any happier after it’s over.
The game of life
Life isn’t something to cave in to. Life is something to embrace. Waking up in the morning to whatever is facing you that day is a challenge. A privilege. A moment denied to those who have left before us. An honor.
Mind, body, spirit
Our bodies need certain things to thrive. Body, Mind, and Spirit. All three need to be in balance and if they aren’t, then things start to get ugly. Eating a salad might not mean anything to your emotions, but it means a lot to your body. Feeding a lonely feral cat may not mean anything to your body, but your mind and your spirit appreciate the activity and give positive feedback through hormones and chemicals to your body, further strengthening it. It all matters. YOU matter.
That’s all I have for you this week, dear reader. Have faith in yourself. Get out there and serve others, and in turn, watch your happiness bloom!
I’ll see you back here next Wednesday to share another cup of coffee. Until then, be good to yourself and each other.
Mind, Body, Spirit…Osteopathic Doctors treat the whole person, not just the ailment. Is your PCP a DO? Would you like to learn more about Osteopathic Physicians? Click HERE!