It’s funny – I think life has a way of making us forget what makes us happy and remember all too well what doesn’t. It’s easy to feel discouraged and down in the dumps and convince ourselves we’ve got to accept our current set of circumstances. But…what if we didn’t?
I shared how I’ve been feeling – for lack of a better word – bleh these past few days. I don’t know if it’s introvert burnout, anxiety, the ceaseless rain – a combination of all of these – or what, but it hasn’t been great. I’m left feeling unmotivated to do anything beyond sit on the couch and watch countless episodes of How I Met Your Mother.
While that show is hilarious (and it’s filling my heart to the brim with nostalgic joy), I don’t exactly want to look back on my life and see the wasted hours spent lethargic in my apartment, stuffing my face with Dove chocolates and not using my precious free time to my advantage.
Often I feel like I can’t be honest about my feelings – because what do I really have to complain about? I have a steady, easy, and convenient job that’s immensely flexible with my schedule as I pursue other passions. I live in a wonderful city filled with opportunity and have the income to travel and buy myself that pair of shoes and eat fancy dinners every once in a while. I have a supportive husband who makes me laugh and a dog that’s the sweetest thing on God’s green Earth. I recognize my blessings, and I am grateful for them. But the anxiety isn’t going away. The restlessness. The sadness. The self-doubt. The “what am I even doing with my life”. I have to remind myself that regardless of my “physical” circumstances, it doesn’t mean my feelings aren’t valid. Feelings aren’t negated because society might say so. It is not vain or absurd to work on your personal joy – it is after all, your life, and it doesn’t last forever.
There are a lot of “big picture” things I’ve been mulling over, difficult decisions I’m weighing. But as I’m not quite ready to make huge life-changing commitments, I’m turning my focus smaller. Life is, after all, both the little things and the big things (but it’s made up infinitely more of the little).
When I’m less than happy, when there are current situations I can’t immediately change, I like to actively find what makes me happy and do more of that. Because why is it so easy to recognize these things and disregard them anyway?
So even if I’m feeling lazy, if the weather isn’t perfect, if it might take me 50 minutes to drive somewhere, I have to remind myself that sometimes you have to make your happy. You have to set aside the time and make the plan and stick to it. Exercise when you don’t feel like it. Cook a wholesome meal when it will take longer. Get up early for that hike even when you want to hit the snooze button.
We know what makes us happy. So let’s stop ignoring that.
Things that make me happy:
- the sun on my skin – I can’t control the weather, but I can get outside when it makes an appearance.
- fresh air – I might have to be in an office all day, but I can have my lunch break at the park or take a walk to get coffee.
- nature – I haven’t been camping since last summer, but I can escape the city if I make those site reservations.
- reading – Nothing makes me happier than escaping in a (good) book; I can put down the phone.
- traveling – Monday through Friday is accounted for, but I can visit several weekend trip destinations.
- also – wine + board games + dancing + deep tissue massages + writing + homemade bread + coffee shops + breakfast + candles + hot showers + the ocean + yoga + sweatshirts + potted plants + hikes + photo albums + live theatre + chocolate chip cookies + leisurely bike rides + photo booths.
I encourage you to also make a list. Come back to it when you’re feeling sad – or bored or restless or worried or scared. Grab an item off the list and actually do it.
Mental health is a serious subject. I understand that there aren’t always cures for depression and anxiety. I am not claiming to be an expert on the subject or nullify any mental health conditions. I’m merely sharing the things I personally can control and not suggesting they are the be-all, end-all solutions. In fact, I often have to ride the wave until it’s over.
P.S. I once shared Matthew McConaughey’s commencement speech, in which he talks about finding out who you are by pinpointing who you are not. In the same vein, I challenge you to find what makes you unhappy and work towards eliminating those things. Also, The Happiness Project and in my opinion, the happiness guru.