For years I have had the feeling that I was not living my best life, but I never seemed to be able to break out of my regular routine and actually make any lasting changes. I tried forcing myself to wake up early, exercise, eat right and get things done. I confused productivity with happiness.
Then, about a year ago, I had a major breakthrough. I realized that happiness was not the result of having or doing or procuring or achieving, but was rather a decision that can be made and worked towards. I started reading every book I could on mindfulness and the psychology of happiness.
I then experienced an ebb and flow of motivation and frustration, inspiration and despair. I would read an inspirational book or watch a self-help talk on the internet and feel great for a week or two, excited about my life. However, soon the everyday habits would take over and I would somehow find myself feeling down again. I would let the stress in. I would watch too much tv. I would reenter the world of helplessness and I would lose momentum.
With each new peak would come a valley. After months of work, I never seemed any closer to my goals and my frustration only increased.
The problem was that my happiness was only ephemeral, dying away at the first sight of conflict. I experienced happiness when external factors were in the optimum configuration, but allowed myself to be swept away to a place of gloom when times were rough.
I was reacting to the world. I was not choosing to be happy.
Happiness is a choice. It is not a result of what you have or what people think about you. Happiness doesn’t just show up and knock on your door one day once you have crossed off all of the items on your to-do list or after you have completed your degree. It is not waiting for you at the end of the checkout aisle after you have purchased a new playstation or winter jacket, and it won’t give you a high five after you have returned from your morning run.
Happiness is that feeling of peace that you have once you have silenced your negative internal monologue, once you no longer practice potential conversations that you would like to have with your boss or your father or your ex about what they did wrong and why you are angry. It is the confidence that you feel in knowing that you are a good person, that you are enough exactly as you are and that you love yourself.
Happiness is a feeling of hope for the future, and contentment with the past. It is enjoying the smell of the crisp autumn air as you crunch the technicolour leaves under the soles of your shoes. But, it won’t arrive with the autumn, nor with the leaves. It will only appear once the white noise of negativity and worry is gone from your head.
We can invite happiness into our lives by practicing positivity, by being grateful for what we have, for who we are and for what we have done.
It is my goal to replace my negative internal monologue with self-love and affirmation, positivity, gratefulness and compassion. When I catch myself thinking that something is difficult I repeat ‘I can do it’ to myself until the self-doubt goes away. When I start feeling that a situation is unfair, I tell myself that my life is already so full of wonderful things, that the particular situation is unimportant.
I am still at the beginning of this journey, but I will continue to chronicle my experiences and share my inspiration.
For more information on how to think positively, please take a look at these two books, both of which were pivotal in my transformation:
Martin Seligmann – Learned Optimism
Brian Tracy and Christina Tracy Stein – Kiss that Frog!