Can you remember the last time you were happy? I don’t mean crazy, over the moon, insane happy, but that content happiness, that kind of happy that lets you smile for just a moment, even while crazy flies all around you.
I can tell you that for the longest time I couldn’t find happy. It seemed as though it was illusive. It was as mythical a creature as a unicorn. On rare occasions happy would pop it’s head out and tease me, but all too soon it was gone and that dull pain of life would return.
A couple years ago I decided I was tired of living in pain, hardship, and misery. I knew there wasn’t anything I could do about my financial situation, which was a lot of what was troubling me, but I needed to not feel so horrible so much of the time.
At first it felt like I was pretending to be happy. You know the old, “fake it till you make it” routine, but after a while being happy didn’t feel so impossible. I learned that 3 things really helped me find a new path.
The first was really self-acceptance. It was about realizing that I am just fine, just as I am. I have always had a poor self-body image and my self-esteem has struggled to say the least. To bring the mythical unicorn, that was my happiness, up into the light of day I had to let go of unreasonable expectations of myself. I had to learn to accept myself.
The next tool I found to be useful was learning to be grateful, every single day. At first that was just finding one or two things a day to be grateful for, but eventually it became realizing that there is so much that I truly am grateful for. Every day I am finding old and new reasons to smile and be grateful. I have been incredibly blessed. I have an incredible husband, amazing children, and I have been blessed with friend and family in my life whom I love with all my heart and who support me and love me too. I have been lucky enough to live a life filled with love and adventure. Every day I am blessed with a new day to make new choices and learn new lessons. Remembering and recognizing those blessings truly leads to a happier life.
Another thing I found helped me was visualization. Maybe it was more like a kind of daydreaming. I would close my eyes and imagine life in a way that would make me happier. Some days that might be about imagining myself on a deserted island and others it might be envisioning myself totally successful and with enough money to help not only myself but our friends and family.
These were the first tools I used to help me find some happiness. Since then I’ve found more solid ways to keep happy from becoming a mythical creature again. I know that I worried way too much about what other people thought of me. The only person I need to impress or make proud is ME. It has taken me a LONG time to come to that heavy realization and let go of that impossible need to make everybody else happy with who I am. I only need to make ME happy with who I am and others will like it or not like it. That is their choice and I respect that.
I also had to set up boundaries of what I am willing to accept and how much I can do for others. I had to learn to say no. I had to learn to stand up for myself. I also had to learn to walk away from those who did not really have my best interest at heart.
Now my husband and I are undertaking this new adventure of going back to college to get our Bachelor’s degrees in Psychology. That, once again, is something I need to do for myself. I have wanted this for as long as I can remember but I’ve always found excuses to put it off. My husband feels a need to have purpose once more in his life and he loves to help others. It makes sense for us both and so, even though we are older than most college students, we decided to just do it. And for now our purpose will be getting our education. Eventually that purpose will be in a work situation and in helping others.
My steps to finding my happiness may not be the exact steps that will work for someone else, but within my story are tools that you might find useful along your own path. I know what it is like to live in pain and sorrow. I know what it is like to wonder when it will finally end, maybe even hope for that end. I also know that life can be so much better than just that awful grind, so much more than that feeling of meaningless waste. So make a step toward your own happiness. Start with the smallest of baby steps if need be, but start. Go catch that unicorn and make it come out into the light of day.