If you think about why we do the things that we do, most often we do them because we believe they will make us happy. Somehow eating that brownie, getting that job, starting that relationship, making that friend, etc. will bring us happiness. We want to be content, joyful and at peace so we make decisions we think will bring us those things.
Seeing as it is one of our primary motivators, I think it’s safe to say that experiencing happiness is something we as a society and as individuals place great importance on.
I mean, like big time.
Somehow, though, happiness seems to be pretty elusive to us as well. According to the NY Times, 30 million Americans are currently on anti-depressants.
As someone who is prone to anxiety, I’ve experienced this fruitless search firsthand. Even when things are going really well, I find myself worrying and feeling uneasy with no specific reason to, or for reasons that are not 100% logical (pretty much zero logic involved). Especially recently, having acquired some of the important things that are ‘supposed’ to make you happy, I was finding myself more anxious than ever and unable to justify (logically) why I felt that way.
It got me thinking to what actually makes us happy and why it seems so unattainable to so many of us. To help myself out, I thought of a few people who I believe to be genuinely happy (not just appear to be on Insta) and looked for what some of their common denominators might be. This is what it came down to:
Happiness is a choice.
It’s easy to think that happiness is something that naturally happens to us when things are aligned just right (i.e. we have the dream job, dream guy, dream house…) But I think the reason that we acquire those things and don’t feel completely happy is that happiness is something we create for ourselves. It’s a mindset that we deserve a good and fulfilling life to serve ourselves and others. My housekeeper who is the smallest, most cheerful woman I’ve ever met, shared with me: “You know who can make you happy? You.”
And this is coming from someone who cleans other people’s messes for a living. We need to accept that we are allowed and entitled to live in a state of joy and from there decide to live that way.
Happiness requires consistent self-care.
I know I stress this in pretty much every post I write, but I cantstopwontstop because I know how crucial it is. Even though it’s hard to fully communicate it, being well-rested, well-fed and active are integral to our happiness. Scientific studies show that exercise especially enables people to feel more excitement and enthusiasm. I think eating well (at least in general) is a sign of respect for ourselves that makes self-love and self-confidence concrete; after all, love is a verb right? When we make self-care a priority we are able to better care for others and offer the world the best of who we are.
Happiness takes time.
What is something you know brings you joy? Maybe it’s cooking/baking, writing, reading, walking your dog, going to the beach, painting…whatever it is, you need to make time for it. It’s easy to fill our schedules with things we have to do (work, groceries, washing the dishes) and things other people want to do (coffee with a friend, date night, going out with friends for drinks). While those things are good and necessary, it’s also vital to set aside time to do things that bring us joy and fulfillment. Set aside time in your calendar to bake that cake, write in your journal or just play with your dog (silly as that might seem) and be true to yourself by keeping that date even if another offer comes up. Joy isn’t something that just happens to us or can be given to us by someone else, it’s something we bring to ourselves when we design the life we want.
Happiness is found in your purpose.
Especially at this age (college/recent grad), existential crises are a real thing that can be super scary, like the adult version of the boogie monster. I think few people know what they’re supposed to do and why. I’ve found that it’s more about trusting that where you are is where you’re supposed to be and to do the best that you can now even if it doesn’t seem like the ideal situation. When we push and challenge ourselves in our current situations, it makes finding fulfillment a lot easier. Boredom breeds unhappiness and dissatisfaction which can turn into anxiety and even depression. Find ways to make whatever you’re doing now (even if you’re waitressing) a challenge for yourself; an opportunity to do your absolute best. Your purpose is your present.
Happiness is in your surroundings.
Make an active effort to find beauty in your world. The trees on your drive in to work, the people you interact with, the clothes you wear…fill your room, your office, your car with things that inspire and encourage you. Read blogs (*cough cough*) and books that are uplifting, put pictures on your wall or board (or Pinterest board), change your screensaver…fill your world with good and beautiful things.
Let’s take happiness out of the hands of others and out of the hands of the world and into our own control.
“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” – Frederick Keonig
Here’s to choosing happiness and making it our own.