Reading a lot about happiness in many media outlets, I have noticed, that there is a lot of talk about how positive thinking is or can be dangerous.
Perhaps I have managed to read only the suitable passages in books and articles about happiness. But never once did it occur to me, that being happy would mean denying some of the feelings I have inside me.
Quite the contrary.
Excluding feelings – fear, anxiety, tiredness, overbearing stress, dissatisfaction – is an excellent habit if you are intrested in building a volcano inside yourself, that is inevitably going to blow up. Tried that!
Spiritual growth, becoming happier, becoming a better version of yourself… Whatever you want to call it -is going to force you to face all those difficult feelings, you might have been hiding for years.
By trying to avoid certain feelings, I think I’ve become a bit confused about my own personality even. Being busy trying to make people like me, instead of just being me. Not owning up to the fact if I’m feeling hurt, for fear of being abandoned. Doing what is expected of me (by whose standards – I don’t know…) instead of just doing what I want.
So yes, I need to acknowledge all my feelings. Because without acknowledging what makes me smile, how can I ever imagine having a more positive outlook on life? Then again, without understanding my deepest fears, how am I ever going to put myself back together in one piece?
It’s not always a pleasure rummaging through the hidden corners of your mind.
There’s not much more you can do though. I mean… If you carry in your heart pain, troubles, negative thoughts that are hurting you, they will find you in your new job, in your new house and most definitely in every relationship.
In order to be happier, I try to understand my pain, cherish my smile and let all of my colors be a part of me.
How do you understand happiness? Is it a state of 100% pure sunshine, or more about accepting the possibility that things are most likely not going to be perfect all day, every day?
Some articles in finnish about positivity and happiness:
This is something many of us happiness seekers ponder.
In my case especially because fundamentally I have everything in my life I could ever imagine needing. Also because so much in the world seems to be wrong. There is hunger, torture, war, racism… Things my husband and children will hopefully never have to face, but that are reality to a lot of people – even friends and family members.
I remembered a discussion I had with a colleague some time back. Today, I realized the meaning of what he said, to my happiness project.
I argued that I’m doing this to be happier in my everyday life, because not all of us have the possibility to quit our job and move to Gili Air.
He argued that that’s basically bullshit – that you always have a choice and he for example chooses to be a whore for money. (He’s quite a straightforward type of a guy and voices his opinions loud! And I quite like him for that by the way.)
So his point was received – very loud and clear – but I wasn’t entirely convinced.
Who knows why, but I had a sudden epiphany about why everyday happiness is the way to go for me.
We are not all the adventurous type.
And that’s ok.
E.g. I’ve tried living in rental apartments. But I care deeply about being able to make the place look like OUR home and that is not entirely realistic in a rental in Helsinki – in my experience.
I’m intrested in interior design and even paint one shade of white over with another, if you get my point. Having our own apartment and there a kitchen, we designed for our purposes, makes me satisfied on a daily basis. I realize this may sound strange to some, but I like our well functioning kitchen and the fact we can afford to pay our monthly installments to keep that kitchen.
Then again, I have friends who I’m sure will never spend all their lives living in one place. Others that would never work from 9 to 5 (like I basically do) and so on.
And that’s ok too.
It’s amazing if someone has found their passion in traveling on a motorcycle around the world, working odd jobs here and there and they are able to fulfil their dream. But I like that little bit of predictability in my life that a steady paycheck and a safety net of friends and family around give you. Truthfully, I would go as far as to say that I would feel anxious and stressed without a steady income and a place to call home.
And so I realized, that even if I still don’t think a “whore for money” is the accurate way to describe my goal in life (or that everyone really has a choice), I actually am not intrested in quitting my dayjob right now. That may change one day, and I’m fine with that aswell.
I find enjoyment in a lot of things I have right here, where I am. Recognizing that, and giving myself permission to actually BE happy where I am (no matter what the social media, newspapers or advertisements say) is perhaps the biggest victory of my happiness project so far.
I don’t necessarily need a study to tell me, that a happy person is more likely to give back to their community. Or that the happier a person is, the less reason they have to hate or envy people around them. So actually I shouldn’t be the only one benefiting from my happiness.
Trying to be happier “in the now” doesn’t stump your possibilities for personal growth, or dreaming big. I dream! There are so many travels I need to do, tattoos I plan to take, studies I want to continue…
It’s just that I know from experience that if I feel shitty where I am right now, no outward circumstance is actually going to fix that (e.g. quitting that day job…). The everyday life will catch you eventually.
So figure out what it is that makes your everyday life happier. In some cases it’s moving to Bali. In some cases it’s moving out of a rental. Perhaps expanding your social circle. Sleeping more. Finding a long lost hobby you used to love…
Or maybe you are already exactly where you are supposed to be. I’ve heard it’s a possibility.
Chronic pain can lead to depression and depression itself can cause also physical pain. Though I’m quite sure pain has not been a factor in my depression, I have suffered from chronic back pain for around 20 years now (since my teens that is).
So as often as I can, I spend money on massages, acupuncture, physiotherapy etc. It is a very satisfying feeling laying on a table with the acupuncture needles stuck in your back and feeling absolutely nothing. Bliss.
Even if you’re not in pain, something like a hot stone massage is oh, so very relaxing. An acupuncture session is also a perfect excuse for an hour of me-time (all you busy parents out there!) – I usually fall asleep there.
You just might want to make sure you have an opportunity to rest after your treatment – a massage tends to make at least me so relaxed, all I want to do for the rest of the day is sleep!
“In fact, a weak social circle is bad for your health, adds Barker. According to research from Brigham Young University, not having enough friends is the same risk factor as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.”
As a kid I was the most open, approachable person you’ll ever meet. I had no trouble making friends, I cornered even the shy ones.
Some experiences have led me to be more wary about people, so making new friends doesn’t come as naturally as it used to. It’s propably a mix of poor self-esteem and getting attached to people quite strongly – which always opens up a possibility to getting hurt.
Luckily despite all my issues, I have been blessed when it comes to friendships.
Laws of attraction
I don’t know that in my current life situation (work, two kids, marriage) I intentionally try to seek out people to bond with. But some just stumble on my path, whether I try to look for them or not – and I’m certainly not complaining.
Some of my friends I’ve known for so long (one friend 33 years out of 36!), I have no idea how we initially met, or how long it took for us to get a thing going.
What I do know, is that a certain chemistry, attraction is present in all my friendships. It doesn’t necessarily mean we were best buddies the second we met. Just that there was something that made us (or at least me!) want to swap more than a mere hello.
Sometimes the attraction is so present, it’s almost tangible. In those situations I’m very adamant that a person belongs in my life.
Almost twenty years ago a black haired girl walked into our classroom. I can’t remember how she was introduced or anything – but I do remember thinking “She intrigues me.” When we finally hooked up through a mutual friend, we were an instant hit. And we really are like the sun and the moon, but I could never imagine my life without her.
Some friends feel more like family, even when they live further away. (I love the fact that whatsapp exists.)
Some friends you don’t see in years, and still, when you bump into them, you chat like you had just seen them yesterday.
There are those friends that have stood by you every step of the way, helping, giving much needed love when you had none to give. And they still keep on giving. Advice, laughter, experiences…
There’s even a friend who held my hand in childbirth and saw a baby come out of me – and it all felt perfectly natural. She’d make a perfect midwife by the way, even though she might not think so.
All friends so different, all contributing to my happiness in one way or another.
How to find friends
I’ve managed somehow apparently! But I never had any kind of calculated tactic. Mostly I just try to keep an open mind.
I’ve met friends through work, studies, hobbies… All quite natural places to meet people. I’m not picky about age or gender either – you never know who you hit it off with.
I’ve met some really intriguing characters through friends of friends – so if I’m asked to join a party or a dinner for example, I try to go. Even if it scares the shit out of me (honestly, I’m no social butterfly…)
What if people feel like the scariest thing ever
If you feel like you need a bigger social circle, but you suffer from e.g. anxiety or depression or you’re just shy, meeting new people is propably going to feel daunting. I must confess I was lurking at home for quite some time.
But then I realized I could use our kid as a clever cover-up. I shamelessly used him as an excuse to meet people. Even then I didn’t join a moms group, but rather found out if any of our neighbours were home with a baby too. I just function better when there’s not too many people to talk to at the same time.
And as luck would have it, I found someone.
The importance of having friends
It’s that age old wisdom about sharing. Share your sorrows and they will seem lesser. Share your joy and it’ll multiply.
When my friends succeed, have happy events in their lives, are trying new things… I’m there to share the excitement. With a pure heart. I can be many things, but I’m not jealous. I feel their butterflies, their smiles and I’ll feel an instant lift myself.
Admittedly, while not so strong myself, I propably haven’t been the best consoler to all those around me. I am there to listen though. Most of the time that’s really all any of us need.
Doing different things with different friends – all a bit depending on our life situations, history (or taste in music!) – just gives me so much.
Friends, who know you like the back of their hand, friends who share your passion for books and writing, friends who understand your work life, friends who have that similar stage in life, friends who made it through school with you and those who will party with you all night long and have the courage to laugh at your ridiculous hangover. Then there are those new beginnings where you are cautiously figuring the rules of that particular friendship out.
What it takes to be a friend
You have to work on your relationship. You can be insanely blessed, like I was, and get your friends back after a long silent period (because of a relationship by the way, not mental health issues) – but it doesn’t always work like that.
Like I said, I get attached to people, which also means that I’m fiercely on my friends’ side.
My only fear is that I don’t always know how to show my appreciation well enough, remember to stay in touch often enough, or I leave something unsaid in fear of conflict, which may lead to weird situations.
Let opportunity knock
Seeing as how I’ve managed to quit smoking six years ago, I would think it a bad policy to let my social circle shrivel.
So that in mind, being more open to people, and opportunities to meet people, is something I’m trying to embrace as part of my happiness project. I actually quite enjoy my me-time, but I would go nuts without my friends!
Today I was more nervous than I have been in a long while. I tried exercise, singing and even dancing, but the feeling wanted to stay with me.
See, today I did something that I’m not sure I’ve ever done before. So I was definitely pushing my boundaries, and you know how our mind doesn’t like those boundaries pushed.
I mentioned it briefly in a previous post, how I had followed my intuition in wanting to get to know a person better. I also mentioned, that plan didn’t go quite as I had hoped. Turns out though, it didn’t backfire either.
I think today was an excellent proof that my happiness project and guidelines work for me. They are taylor made for me and my issues and I think I must have followed more than one of my guidelines today, or leading up to today’s event.
Anyone figuring out their own guidelines, can be as successful with theirs, as I have been with mine.
What I had planned turned eventually (suggested by this other person) into a sunny afternoon spent with excellent food, great people and family fun.
Oh believe me, my ego is trying sooooo hard to make today’s experience less enjoyable for me – but that’s just cause my ego has serious trust issues. (Right now it’s telling me, that I will freak the people out we met today, if they happen to catch this post.) But I won’t let that stop me…
Because honestly, today, even the weather was on my side.
There was an excellent piece of writing (in Finnish) in our main newspaper about how depression is percieved in the society.
The article talks about how, if you are able to work, have friends or perhaps go for a jog, your depression is not believable.
It’s pretty risky to think that all suffering from depression would act the same way. Even health care professionals seem to make this mistake a lot of times.
But we all have different personalities, and we all have different lifestories.
Let’s talk about me for a moment here, cause that’s a subject I’m quite familiar with…
Why I got depressed, when someone else in my situation might have survived without?
For eight months I was practically not sleeping, and eating such a low-calorie diet (breastfeeding diet because of Junior’s allergies), I must’ve been starving. But I was used to taking care of everyone else, before thinking about myself. We had two small kids to take care of.
I wasn’t really asking myself, how I was doing.
I am stubborn as hell, a control freak and an overachiever. It was so hard to admit I needed help. It was even harder admitting the depths of those dark holes that I had been down.
I felt that I didn’t “deserve” to feel as bad as I did, cause I had all these beautiful things and people in my life. But the anger, the panic attacks, the despair and the apathy was there and I didn’t invite it. But it took an actual physical illness to eventually gain me access to therapy and medication. Because I wasn’t just laying in bed all day. Because I put my mascara on. Because I showered?
Even as I write this, I’m not entirely sure, if I will ever post this.
In some ways I want to participate (if I can) in making depression less of a taboo.
In others, I’m afraid people will start judging everything I do (or even worse – they will start acting differently towards me) based on this somewhat minor detail about me. I say minor, because fundamentally I am who I have always been – in good and bad.
But if you have never gone down this path, some things must be hard to understand…
Like how, when I was in my darkest place, for a social worker to ask me to spend 15 minutes playing with our kid was like asking for the moon.
Like how it is possible to spend a night out with friends acting all happy and “normal”, while being afraid of the next day.
How it is totally possible to wash your hair and do your make-up, but still want to jump off a balcony so you wouldn’t have to listen to anymore demands from anyone, including yourself.
And how it is possible to come back from that dark place and become you again.
Or perhaps even a better version of you? My happiness project is not strictly speaking a means to cure me from depression. I do other stuff for that, as I’ve mentioned in earlier posts. The happiness project is more a tool to help me grow as a person.
So that I will be braver. So that if I fail in something, I will bounce back faster. So that my need for making people happy doesn’t eat me up. So that I can believe people can like me for who I am – even if I am a bit awkward, talk too much and have the weirdest sense of humor. And if I am not liked, that is ok too. So that I will not let my screaming ego stand in the way of doing things.
(An example; right now my ego is shouting like a maniac: “how selfish to think anyone would want to read about your story! Why should anyone care! If you post this, you will ruin your life for sure!”)
And already concentrating on the little things has helped a lot. It’s never going to be pure sunshine 100% of the time – but that’s just life.
My motto for years used to be “think negative and you shall not be disappointed.” In the future I want my motto to be more like:
“Think positive and good things are going to happen.”
There are things brewing inside me that I totally put down to my trying to understand what makes me happy.
Now, let’s see what I have noticed, or done lately, that I would never have imagined doing in the past!
– Feeling at ease hugging people. Also having an urge to touch all kinds of things in addition to people. I love the texture of leaves, trees rocks… You name it!
– Exploring my surroundings and finding beautiful new places (nope, not been a given at all! New things and places can freak me out!)
– Sang infront of a group of people. All sober. In daylight. Didn’t pass out. I think I found myself a new hobby!
– Followed my intuition telling me, I should try to get to know one person better. This one sort of backfired in some ways, but I’m still proud of myself for speaking out this time, instead of bottling that thought in. I mean, if new places and things are scary, how about people then!!
– I’m enjoying jogging. What the f? I have always hated jogging. Now I need to stop myself so I won’t overdo it. Perhaps I have finally realized, I don’t have to taste blood when running, for it to count as exercise.
Generally that annoying voice inside my head telling me I can’t be this and that, can’t do this and that or can’t say this and that, is quiet more often than it used to be. It’s exciting, but admittedly a little scary at times too!
I may follow my intuition more freely these days, but my ego still likes to play the drama queen when something doesn’t go exactly according to plan.
I’ll keep on my chosen path towards happiness and perhaps the ego will soon hush up for good.