NEED HELP? 1-800-273-8255 TXT "CTL" to 741741
Happiness is almost always for me in the small, mundane moments of life. The moments you will miss if you don’t stop and be present for them. The smell of rain and a warm breeze through the window. The laughter of your best friend, or even not overcooking your favorite pasta. When I think about meaning, I like to parallel that with thinking about value. I think the small moments for me take a lot of steps to achieve. I’m naturally am not a present person. I’m an anxious overthinker. So if I’m able to achieve gratitude for a single life moment, that might be one of my biggest accomplishments of the day.
Which makes me want to ponder on how valuable happiness is. Especially why so many of us are yearning for the experience. How much do we think about happiness? As someone with or without mental health challenges, happiness can seem hard to come by at times. Happiness is so precious when it does come by.
To be honest, I’ve spent a chunk of my mental conversations trying to uncomplicate the idea of happiness. I think a lot of us are chasing, gripping, holding onto happiness in some way, really everyday, and are trying to decide if happiness is a hypothetical, fantastical construct or if it’s something we actually have control over.I think I obsessed more over why I wasn’t always happy or desired to elongate my happiness that I totally hop-skipped over those small joyful things, and missed out.
I believe it is in our nature as humans, and a deep desire to become perfect. If we’re not happy the moment we wake up or during a “beautiful day” or “event”, we think we’re broken, or something is wrong with us. Ask yourself:
That was and sometimes is still an issue I have at least.
I have friends as well that cling onto happy-memories, and try to replicate them. For example, something from childhood. Then we feel continuously let down that it’s not the same experience or feeling.
Many of us try to cram real happiness in a space in our mind that is compared to our fantastical happiness. We put it next to an unreasonable expectation. Or a comparable time when we were different, or in a different season. We set our happiness up for failure.
I used to get so upset that many mornings I didn’t wake up energetic and happy, and that’s because I was influenced by constantly seeing “peaceful” or “perfect morning routine” on social media to the extreme where I thought I was supposed to be like that all the time. So instead of waking up, acknowledging my weary, discontent, maybe stressed emotions, I got angrier and more upset because I wasn’t joyful. When really, all I had to do was acknowledge those emotions then choose to be happier to the best of my ability.
The key here is the best of your ability in that moment, not your imaginations ability. Which is probably a lot higher of a bar and a standard.
By choosing my happiness, and not expecting to just feel a certain way, I became actionable to implement things that made me happy. Such as, taking a break in my work day, making my favorite food, calling a friend or saying no to something I didn’t want to do. Therefore, I created my own happiness. Not based on what’s in my head, but the reality of what I could conjure up that day.
Saying no to something or even saying no to an emotion doesn’t automatically cancel out the potential joy you can have in an experience or day! Sometimes, I have a lot of built up thoughts or anxiety, and I just say, no. I’m instead going to go do, insert activity, or be productive to assist my anxiety. I tell myself I will readdress those emotions after. We don’t need to solve all our feelings in one moment. I’m not saying the emotions or thoughts don’t exist, I’m not denying the need to be cared for, I’m just prioritizing my tasks or potential joy over them, as best I can.
To be aware of where you are in a day and then creating change or choices based on that and not your desirable, escapist mind (where we can get so distracted imagining the better) made such a big difference. It’s made me more observant and grateful because now I’m in the present actively looking for good things. So I notice beautiful flowers when driving, when the sun pops out, when my friend says something encouraging.
Instead of chasing happiness I am constructing happiness. You don’t need to chase happiness, you have it instilled in you already! Give it the environment and the right soil and the water to grow it. Take a moment to see the season, the day, the sun and you base your choices and thinking off of that, and not your assumptions as to what the weather will be like, and how people are going to treat you.
If you have a fun idea, or something that will bring joy to someone’s heart, I encourage you to go do it! Plan it, be actionable, and make friends with your happiness. You don’t need to wait for what society deems as an “important moment.” Every moment is important if you want it to be.
Ask yourself – How much happiness am I losing by fantasizing a false expectation that I’m in a certain season of my life when I’m not? What amazing joys am I not appreciating now because it’s not perfect joy?
Sometimes we need to go through the weeds to find our bits of happiness. To find joyful things. Even when stuff just…sucks. Going through the weeds is not reserved only for the “bad days” but every day in my book. It requires us to get painfully honest, and hold up a magnifying glass in order to be more aware of these gifts, of the blessings, and to re-define what makes me happy. To renew my heart in realizing that so many things and blessings have the potential to put a smile on my face, and my heart. Instead of always wanting more.
As a spiritual person, I also pray deeply for others’ happiness. But for the non-spiritual, this is similar to thinking about elevating others happiness. Doing an act of kindness or planning an activity (or small moment) in the day to bring them higher. This takes the attention away from ourselves, the pressure, while remaining actionable about thinking through joy and small moments.
Imagine what the world would evolve into if we all focused on not just our own happiness, but how we can create happiness for others?
But hey, let’s get real. There are days, moments in a day, when joy seems so far. When intrusive thoughts are so overpowering, we feel broken beyond repair. I also find myself falling into the constant thought process that my emotions impact others deeply, and that makes me anxious. That I have to be happy in order to be loved, to be desired or wanted around. I overthink, and over-read others reactions to my emotions or how I act in a day. This creates a pressure cooker mentality, I start clawing for happiness, and panicking when I’m not for the sake of my relationships.
I’ve really tried to grasp onto this idea of a new day. With mental illness, a new day used to feel truly useless. I would say, “I have a chronic illness. Who cares about a new day?” I would fear sleeping, and waking up and the cycle would continue. This is in reference to the throws of my deeper Harm Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (hOCD).
But when a new day comes, new opportunities and moments present themselves. New laughter, small jokes and fragile seeds. And with every passing day, wounds, big and small heal. So that terrible day you had? Where you fear you may have negatively impacted another person? Where you fear you’ve wounded yourself beyond healing? It’s already far away in their minds, and it should be in yours too. But I find negative thinking, and even the strongest moments of mental health are temporary. It’s slipping away, like sand on a beach. It’s probably smaller than your mind is ruminating it to be. Our minds love to make everything feels like everything is a big thing. Because we are the center of the universe, in our heads. But we have the power to change that narrative.
People don’t observe your happiness with a fine tooth comb, because they’re already trying to do it for themselves.
You don’t need to be embarrassed. You don’t need to feel like you need to conceal your suffering. It took me a long time to learn this. I often need to remind myself that an “unhappy” version of myself (or day) is just a day of growth and learning. We’re all emotional in our own ways and trying to find that bit of happiness – and broken and imperfect. However, in those cracks are beautiful lessons, experiences and moments of joy. Go find yours.
Written by Sarah Edwards (@setapart_company), TPCT Project Coordinator
© 2023 TurningPointCT.org. All Rights Reserved.