Websters defines happy as:
- Feeling pleasure and enjoyment because of your life, situation, etc.
- Showing or causing feelings of pleasure and enjoyment
- Pleased or glad about a particular situation, event, etc.
So, why is happiness sometimes so hard to achieve? What if you are in a phase of life that isn’t particularly enjoyable? Is happiness still attainable during those hard times?
This is something I’ve struggled with for the past 3 months. Once we moved, I wasn’t sure if happiness was possible.
But, after a much needed weekend home (as in the US) with my best friend, a very negative morning before I was scheduled to leave, and a long flight by myself to reflect, I think I’ve come up with an answer for myself.
Before I start, everything I’m about to write is 100% opinion, so keep that in mind.
First, as someone who struggles off and on with depression (that I have labeled as anxiety because depression freaks me out), I understand that happiness 24/7 is not always attainable. Sometimes in order to obtain happiness, one might need therapy, medication, some type of change, etc. But, I have learned that in myself, is that if I don’t try to be happy (or better said if I allow myself to stay in an unhappy place), nothing changes. I feel like my medicine doesn’t help, therapy doesn’t help, reaching out to friends doesn’t help. When really, it’s my attitude that isn’t helping.
During my 6 hour reflection yesterday (with naps off and on), I realized that when I first moved, I created this irrational idea about living here. This idea was that if I hated the place, that automatically meant I had to be unhappy. But, I don’t think that’s necessarily true. After some soul searching, I came to the conclusion that I can dislike the place I am living, but still find positives, things that make me happy, everyday.
I think that was the biggest crux of my current stage of unhappiness. The very real (but irrational) thought that if I am happy, a – people might mistake that for liking living here, b – people might think I no longer miss them, and c – fear that I just might find something I do like about living here. But none of that is rational or true. I can find things in life that I am happy for that don’t include living here, which in turn will help me to be happy. Happiness has nothing to do with if I miss my friends or not. And finally, finding something about this place to like might not be the worst thing that ever happened!
So, first realization – happiness does not equal loving the place I live just as hating the place I live doesn’t have to equal unhappiness.
Second realization – a routine can help minimize downtime where I sit and dwell about disliking living here, or how much I miss people. When we first moved, my routine was completely destroyed. That was a routine that I had worked hard to create and maintain. A routine that was working well for me. But, just because one routine dies doesn’t mean a new (and equally effective one) can’t be created! I plan to create said routine today.
Third realization – sadness, unhappiness, depression, anxiety – whatever you want to call it – it thrives on loneliness and isolation. Sitting inside all day, with only my dog S to keep me company, is not promoting happiness. Don’t get me wrong, I love my dog. But, I also need human interaction, and more than just the 5 hours I get at night when D gets home from work. I didn’t have this issue at home because we were 10 minutes from our friends. Plus, I was working and interacting there. But here, I have to find a way to interact with people.
This is one that both D and my best friend helped me realize and contemplate over the weekend. When we first moved, I vowed that I wouldn’t make friends. We are only here for a year, then we will pack up and move somewhere else away from people I just met. Not exactly what I wanted to do right after I just said goodbye to my best friends. But, after a long talk with C (who is very wise when it comes to friendships), she explained that there are different types of friends. C and A are friends that will be there forever. It’s a bond that doesn’t go away. Moving doesn’t break it, life doesn’t break it. It may change and adapt, but it’s there. Other friends can be like this, or they can be there for a certain season of life. It doesn’t make them any less of a friend during that point. But, they are there for a reason, a season, and that is okay. That’s a very hard concept for me to grasp. But I understand now that I can’t just avoid people because I’m scared of making (and ultimately losing) friends here. I have to put myself out there, make connections, and experience human interaction. If not, it’s going to be harder to find happiness while here.
Final realization – being positive will in turn lead to being happier. I was very negative yesterday, and looking back on that, I regret it. Being sad is okay, being upset to travel back is valid, but the negativity I felt towards heading back wasn’t okay. It shrouded the day. A day that should have been spent enjoying the last little bit of time with C and her sister, not sulking because I have to leave. I don’t want anymore trips to be like that. And so I am choosing to be more positive. To look on the bright side and be thankful for the fun weekend I had the opportunity to spend with them and celebrate C’s birthday. To be grateful for the ability to travel home (or friends travel here to visit). Again, I’m going to allow myself to be sad and miss them, but not allow my day to be full of negativity because of it!
Ultimately, being unhappy for a year of my life isn’t worth it. It’s not worth my health (physically or mentally). It’s not worth my recovery. And it’s not worth putting my marriage or my friendships through that kind of negativity.
Will there be hard days? Absolutely. Will there be days that I am still negative, still unhappy, and don’t cope healthily? I’m sure. But, starting today I am making a conscious effort to choose positivity and happiness. And I know I am strong enough to do so.
I’m going to include another coping skill in this post. I use this one a lot!
Words matter. Words can bring you up or push you down. Quotes, sayings, phrases, lyrics – anything positive that sends a good message helps brighten my day a little! C and I have started sending each other screen shots of these whenever we stumble across one. K sometimes tags me in one on Instagram. They never fail to make me smile. Make me stop, think, and remind myself to be positive, hopeful, and stay strong.
Sometimes I post these quotes around the house. In college I taped them all over our bathroom mirror. I like to keep them close by so that I can go back and look at them whenever I need a little pick me up.
Here are a few to close on. I found some of these about happiness as I flipped through a book A gave me. Some are about staying positive. Feel free to share any you want to add in the comments!
“Happiness, not in another place but this place, not for another hour but this hour.” – Walt Whitman
“No man is happy who does not think himself so.” – Publilius Syrus
“Of all the things that wisdom provides to help one live one’s entire life in happiness, the greatest by far is the possession of friendship.” – Epicurus
“Whoever is happy will make others happy, too.” – Anne Frank
“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Happiness and misery consist in a progression towards better or worse; it does not matter how high up or low down you are, it depends not on this, but on the direction in which you are tending.” – Samuel Butler
“Love yourself unconditionally, just as you love those closest to you despite their faults.” – Les Brown
“Most important, in order to find real happiness, you must learn to love yourself for the totality of who you are and not just what you look like.” – Portia de Rossi
“Sometimes you can’t see yourself clearly until you see yourself through the eyes of others.” – Ellen DeGeneres
“Fall seven times, stand up eight.” – Japanese Proverb