So you may be wondering…you decide what?
Well, I believe you decide your own happiness. We all hear happiness quotes like ‘things don’t make you happy’, ‘you can’t buy happiness’, and the infamous ‘don’t worry, be happy’. But just hearing those quotes obviously doesn’t teach you how to be happy. Some of us, in pursuit of happiness or opinions of how to achieve it, do a little further research. I know, for the most part, what makes me happy (it rhymes with shmocolate 😉 but I’ve often wondered what makes others happy so if something comes my way about happiness I’ll usually take a look. Years ago I watched a documentary where it clearly showed that the people with the least amount of ‘stuff’ were the happiest. After watching this it was confirmed for me that ‘things’ don’t make you happy, although I was already pretty aware of this concept. Ted Talks, one of my go-to research tools for a meeting-of-the-minds approach has a variety of happiness videos explaining the science behind happiness, as well as the ways to achieve it. One particular talk discusses how, as we all have heard, it’s far better to give than to receive. So we can safely say that things don’t make you happy and being greedy doesn’t make you happy.
So what’s the key to happiness? I’ll share mine with you. Ready? You decide if you want to be happy. I know there are many who will not like to hear that and I know that chemically some don’t have that choice and I’m not directing this at you. No person or thing is going to make you eternally happy. We all have good days and bad days, for that matter, good moments and bad moments in every day, and only you get to decide your reaction. Choosing not to sweat the small stuff and letting things roll off your back does not, I repeat, does NOT, make you ignorant. It does make you strong and it also is a great way to show yourself some self compassion. You just get the one brain, the one body, and the one life. Each day you decide what you are going to do with your body and specifically your brain. You can’t decide today you are going to be happy every day and then the chore is done, voila eternal happiness, it obviously doesn’t work like that. But every day when you wake up you can tell yourself you’re going to try to make the best of it. Because (this is one of my favorite movie lines) what if this is as good as it gets? What if today you are the healthiest and happiest you will ever be? I’m here to tell you that it’s all fleeting, what’s here today can easily be gone tomorrow. Embrace the very moment you are in. Studies have shown that people who spend more time daydreaming are actually less happy, while those of us who tend to stay in the present moment are actually significantly happier.
In all fairness not everyone has this ultimate goal of happiness, but it seems most people do want to feel good. I don’t believe those are the same thing, feeling good and being happy. Happiness is a state of being, while feeling good seems more sensory to me. Feeling good is more like a great meal, an ice cream on a hot day, or a great massage; it’s your body feeling good. Happiness can exist, even when you don’t feel good. For those of you that do not have a chronic illness an example would be having the flu but still laughing along with a comedy on TV. You don’t feel good, but in that moment you are happy. Let’s face it, there are many unhappy people amongst us doing whatever it takes to feel good; drugs, food, sex, shopping, gambling and so much more. I would argue that they are seeking happiness, but they haven’t embraced that feeling good and happiness aren’t the same. As I see it, they don’t understand that that fleeting good feeling isn’t going to result in long-term happiness. These are obviously my own opinions, I’m not a therapist and I completely understand that there may be many who vehemently disagree.
I would also argue that people, at least in the US, are made to feel like happiness should be the norm, that if you aren’t grinning from ear to ear on a daily basis you should be medicated. The truth is, that’s simply not true. If we weren’t meant to have a variety of emotions, we wouldn’t have them. It’s okay to feel any way you darn well please, as long as you aren’t hurting anyone, including yourself. You might not want to ruminate endlessly, but feel those feelings, all of them. Holding them in long term is just simply not good for your health. Let me be very clear, I completely understand and respect people who care for their mental health by medicating as necessary. What I’m saying is there is so much pressure in this country to be happy all the time, like all the time, but that’s unrealistic. It’s okay to have a bad day, like really okay.
I’m going to wrap up on a personal note. I’ve been told repeatedly that I have such a positive attitude despite this chronic illness in my body right now. Sometimes I think people think I can’t possibly feel like crap or be battling a chronic illness because I’m too happy. The truth is, when I first got sick I felt awful, like emotionally really upset, but then I decided…if I live to be 80, god willing, and this is as good as it gets how will I want to have spent my days? Ruminating about all that I have lost in the past, wishing for those things in the future, or simply being present in the moment and appreciating what I do have. So I do that, most days, but we all stumble, we all have a myriad of emotions, and we need to let those out too. As I meander through this journey we call life I have decided that I’m going to do my best to choose happiness. I’m going to try to make each day count, regardless of my abilities, regardless of my chronic illness, regardless of anything or anyone but me. The key to my happiness is sitting in my own hands, some days I use it, some days I scoff at it as life seems incredibly cruel and unfair, but the point is…this is my life, the decision to be happy is mine.
Thank you for following along on my journey of chronic illness life. I appreciate you taking the time to read my thoughts, even when you disagree. 🙂 As you may already know I follow along with World Watercolor Group on Instagram, which has a daily watercolor prompt. Below are a few from the last week. Wishing you your best day possible.