Happiness. The thing that we all strive for, dream about, search for and yet, for many of us, it is elusive – why? Most of us have periods of happiness in our lives but they are often over-shadowed by misery caused by events in the past or worries about the future. I am not going to say ‘live in the moment’, even though it’s excellent advice, because, for most people it’s impossible. We are a product of our memories (which live in the past) and our hopes, dreams and fears (which reside in the future for the most part.) What I am going to say is that happiness is something that needs to be worked at….
If you’ve ever learned to play the piano – you didn’t get to the end of the first lesson being able to play a concerto, you didn’t learn the alphabet and then were able to write a dissertation on War and Peace. Rather, you practiced, doing the same thing over and over again until whatever it was you were learning came to you naturally. Do you remember how hard it was the first time you tried to write your name? Do you even think about it now? It seems to me that the same logic applies to being happy. This is only my opinion but it’s based on the things that I’ve learned over the last few years.
After I lost my husband I grieved and that’s perfectly natural but it was also what I focused on. I needed to cry, to find ways to let out the emotion that was crippling me so I listened to sad music, watched sad films, read sad stories – you get the picture. After a couple of years I found that I wanted to be happy but, each time I was, I was plagued by guilt – how could I be happy when my husband was dead – so I reverted back into a state of depression…..which then became the norm, a safe place if you will. Essentially, I was comfortable with being depressed.
The trouble with depression is that it’s so easily reinforced. We find a moment’s happiness but then tell ourselves ‘ something will come along to screw it up, I just know it’ and guess what? It does. Then we tell ourselves that we were right (everyone loves to be right) and obviously that means we don’t deserve to be happy or that, even if we find happiness, something will come along to ruin it. What we have on our hands then is a self-fulfilling prophesy and those are buggers to deal with!
I was trapped in this circle for years and then I started to get pissed off with it. My husband’s death had taught me that life is short and we only get one crack at it so I started to look at ways of breaking this incredibly destructive cycle. I began to search for inspiration on YouTube of all places and, because I was looking for it, I found it. There are meditations which will calm you mind and body, there are TED talks which explain our thought processes and what we can do to change them, there are yoga practices, we have Tony Robbins and Brene Brown, Sadhguru and Ajahn Brahm. In short, there is all the material we need to kick start our minds out of depression and into happiness.
So why isn’t everyone happy? Because it isn’t easy to change years of mental and emotional programming. There is comfort in the familiar, there is a certain self-indulgence in misery and our memories, good and bad stay with us. However, being comfortable generally means not moving and, if we don’t move, what’s going to change? Self-indulgence isn’t a bad thing unless we over-indulge – think half a pound of chocolate and a full tub of ice-cream! As for our memories, we can’t erase them but what we can do is change the way that we feel about them, the emotions that we attach to them. I will always feel sad when I think of the last days of my husband’s life but I have attached a very strong feeling of gratitude and love to the fifteen years we spent together before those last few days and, now, that’s what I try and concentrate on but it takes work.
It’s easy, when you’re feeling down, to lie on the sofa and watch TV – it’s hard to get up and go for a walk.
It’s easy to listen to The World’s saddest love songs and cry for a lost love – it’s hard to put on a Madness album and dance around the living room
It’s easy to talk about negative feelings and listen while others do it – it’s hard to put on a set of headphones and follow a guided meditation
Funny thing is, however hard they might be at the start, like everything else, over time, they get easier. What we tell ourselves has a direct effect on our experiences whether they be positive or negative. I’ve realised that we have the ability to create our own narrative and constantly referring to misery, sadness, loss, grief, pain in our words, our writing and our thoughts serves only to reinforce those feelings. Being happy is like anything else – it can be learned but it takes time and effort and I have decided it’s worth the effort. So, am I happy every minute of every day? No, but I’m working on it and life is getting so much easier in the process!
Have an awesome Sunday one and all :O)