I have wanted to write a post about happiness for a while. I think there’s a large number of us (myself included) who have felt at some point that happiness is this unrealistic and elusive continuum of being joyful, cheerful, smiley and content ALL the time. It’s not, and it is impossible to do or be those things constantly.
To chase happiness, in whatever form that takes gives us no actual guarantee that we will ever find it. We tend to see happiness as an “end” goal and not a means. By this, I mean if we get “X Y Z” we will be happy or content. This feeds into our own understanding of what happiness means and what we are shown in life by the media, TV, family, friends, public figures about what this should look like.
Up until around 2016, when a loved one became poorly, I’d previously associated happiness with luxury, holidays, having an amazing house, a new car- all the material things that didn’t lead to true happiness or contentment in the long run. I was chasing happiness in the wrong way. What is really important within this, is the journey itself to happiness. I have found this journey hugely liberating- I have a clear understanding of what makes me happy, who helps me feel happy and an understanding that ultimately it is a continuum.
Tough times come along, horrible things happen to us or the people around is- and it will continue to do so throughout our lives. We can’t control the external things such as events, incidents and traumatic events, what is important is how we respond and react to it. Happiness for me, is about taking the rough with the smooth- learning how to reframe the rough and learning to work through it. There were times in my life I would completely fixate on the rough- it is so easy to do this when we don’t have the tools or the emotional strength to reframe the bad. As soon as I accepted this It became so much easier to be happy.
I heard this great analogy a couple of weeks ago, “when your stranded on a boat capsized, you don’t have time to think about how the boat capsized, you find a way to get out of the situation”. That is so true for me. It takes far more physical and emotional energy to hold on to sadness, upset, anger and resentment. I have held onto grudges dating back to secondary school, from bitter break ups and from disappoints or heartbreaks from family members. It wasn’t until I realised holding onto these feelings were not helping me progress, in fact they set me back. Why should I let this consume me when it serves me no purpose?
Our “Happy chemicals” in the brain, namely Dopamine are released when we process pleasure or positive moods through our neuro-transmitters. I’d encourage us all to look back at what previously made us happy, even as children. Colouring, sport, dancing, music or whatever it might be.. Regularly engaging in these activities or interests or perhaps a new interest we’ve been longing to take up, make us feel happy will help us to lead a more fulfilling life.