A couple of years ago, a psychiatrist asked me a simple question that changed my life forever.
As I sat in the cramped white office, looking at my feet – he asked,
“What makes you happy?”
I laughed, and for the first time in the hour I looked at him in the eyes.
“What do you mean?”
“… What makes you happy?” He repeated given no further indication of the answer he sought. I was always on top of psychiatrists, counsellors and doctors – I usually could manipulate the conversation to turn it around in my favour. This usually involved me rattling off the same old story about my childhood, my mother, my constant belief that I can do better and in the end convinced them all I was perfectly fine and needed no help in any way shape or form.
I looked blankly at my hands now, unsure of what to say or how to answer this question.
It should be pretty easy to answer right ? But not for me at that point in my life there was not a whole lot that actually made me happy – or not that I could think of off the top of my head.
“I want you to go home and figure out what makes you happy. You don’t need to tell me what it is – but you need to know what it is. However, it shouldn’t involve any alcohol or drugs, spending any money or reliance on technology…”
The all too common problem with our society and which leads to our high rates of depression, anxiety and suicide is our lack of knowing what makes OURSELVES happy. We are too busy living each day like the one before, running around like chickens with no heads, working hard to pay bills and then spend money on material possessions for temporary happiness or relying on substances for a good time.
To this day, people still question how I can have a good time clubbing without alcohol. Yes I do get very intoxicated sometimes, but for a while now, I have realised you don’t need any substance to influence your mood and the outcomes of an event.
If you genuinely appreciate the people around you, you shouldn’t consistently require a substance to have a good time with them.
I think everyone needs to sit down once in a while and honestly figure out what makes them happy – even every day if that is what it takes to turn your outlook on life and your mood around.
I’ve just started the 100 Happy Days challenge on social media. The premise is that you upload a photo every day for 100 days of something that makes you happy. This might sound easy, but trust me it’s a lot harder than you think.
At first I was thinking of things I am grateful for but not necessarily things that make me happy. It is actually a hard but rewarding task to find something each
day that makes you happy. Moreso, a new thing each day that makes you happy.
At the end of the day, we all have our own struggles, we all have our own burdens and imperfections. The world is far from perfect and at times it becomes so incredibly hard to know how we are going to get to the next day or week. Sometimes it seems impossible to find any happiness in our lives due to the overwhelming amount of negative people, energy or events.
If you find yourself stuck in a negative rut, my advice is this:
(1) Stop Complaining
It’s always healthy to have a bitch and whinge from time to time but you really need to figure out if what you are saying is constructive or worthwhile. Bringing up your personal struggles and issues as a way of saying you are excused for your negative behaviour or attitude is really quite immature, and usually is only a cry for attention or acts as a guilt trip.
We all have struggles, we all have hurdles and we all have imperfections. If what you are saying is consistently negative and of no or little value, then don’t be surprised when you realise you have very few listening ears. People don’t want to be friends with someone who never has anything positive to say and make out like they have the hardest life out there. One negative person has the potential to bring down a whole army.
My mother always said to me when I was sad, “What is crying going to do? Is it going to get you anywhere?” This rings the same with complaining. If what you’re saying is not going to change things, than maybe consider what you CAN do to change your mood or view on the matter – learn to embrace it or change it.
(2) Start Talking to Different/New People
Tying in to the above point is talking to different and new people. I have had my eyes opened wider than ever before in the last year from the amount of strong people I have met.
When you begin talking to a stranger or a new face, you never know what wisdom you may uncover. I met a lovely woman who had lost her husband a few years ago, after she had breast cancer, had lost her sister to breast cancer and was now a single mum living in a foreign country.
Then there was a lady who had survived an abusive relationship with a drug lord, who made her lose all contact with her family for several years. She escaped eventually and now has a beautiful husband and several lovely children together.
There have been plenty more people I have met who I have just taken the time to talk to on the plane, in a taxi and at work who are absolutely incredible.
Listening to other peoples stories and seeing their strength, is such an uplifting and life building experience. It certainly puts a lot of things in perspective and while you may be complaining about your hardship while saving for a holiday, you’ll realise how incredibly lucky and blessed you to be saving for a holiday rather than life saving surgery.
(3) Try To See The Good In Everything
Life can suck.
Life can also be pretty damn amazing if you let it.
I recently met one of the most inspirational women I have ever encountered who shared her incredible story with me. After divorcing her husband of many years, getting out of a not so happy home, and protecting her sons, she met a new man and fell deeply in love.
She told me of how they would stay awake at night just talking and talking and would fall asleep together in the middle of a wild conversation. She would wake up to him just smiling and saying how grateful he was to have met such an intoxicatingly beautiful soul. I’ve never heard anyone, let alone a grown woman who has experienced the world, speak of love in such a manner. Just before they were set to get married, he passed away very suddenly during an operation that was meant to be quite seamless and had a low risk rate.
Hearing of how broken her heart was and her struggle after this, made me cry. I couldn’t believe two people could be so madly and deeply in love and then have it all taken away from them. She said to me,
“People always ask if I’ll ever move on. If I’ll ever fall in love again. You know what, I don’t need to. I had the most amazing partner, I met my soul mate and he gave me more in six years than people in fifty years of marriage get. I’ve had love and I have loved deeper than most people ever will…. so it’s not a case of moving on. There is nothing that needs replacing or needs to be fixed. I’ve had my big love and I’m so happy I have.”
All I could do is just look at her with so much admiration.
Not many people are able to recover from losing someone they hold so dearly, particularly losing them before they are meant to go. Her strength and capacity to see the beauty in this situation is something I may never be able to experience or fully understand – but I am so absolutely grateful for the lesson she gave me that day.
It’s so much easier to see the negative and bad in a situation or a person than to really try and seek out the beauty or truth. I try my hardest to educate myself about the world and the more I read, study and learn the more and more grateful I am for everything that surrounds me and my life.
After recently getting dumped, a lot of my younger friends anticipated that I all of a sudden “hated” my ex. This was not the case at all. It took time and after an in depth conversation over the weekend, I have no negative feelings toward him at all. In fact if anything, I just realised how lucky I am to have met such an incredible person and to continue to have them as a friend in my life.
Life is always going to throw you curveballs and you will inevitably suffer from heart break, disappointment and loss. You know what, that’s great. It’s in these moments you truly get to treasure yourself and figure out how you are going to pull through.
You cannot go around hating everyone who hurt you or who did something that you did not agree with. I think a massive part of growing up, is instead of ignoring or hating someone for their actions, you try to understand them and maybe help them out where possible.
4. Stop and Breathe
We are so consumed in the idea that if we just had a bit more money, had a few more friends, lived in a different city or a bigger house, were married, were single… whatever we weren’t or don’t have, would make us happy – that we forget to just be happy.
Take a moment to just stop, breathe, count to ten and think of how lucky you are to have all you have. We can’t have it all – and those that seem to, are still not satisfied, they are still seeking that holy grail of eternal happiness. Instead of thinking about what you want or want you need, think about what you HAVE and how those little moments and possessions make you happy day in and day out.
You deserve to be happy and grateful for every day you get to live on this planet. Do what you need to, to make sure this becomes a reality. Even if that means starting out by finding one thing a day that you are grateful for.
So, go away now and ask yourself this,
“What makes me happy?”
When you have an answer – embrace it, live it and love it every day of your life.