Happiness might seem like the easiest thing to achieve—you buy that dress you’ve been coveting or go to a concert with friends and you’re mood will be better. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that and anyone who has tried those steps will probably agree. After a few months of therapy I’ve learned that the idea of happiness that we all talk about seems to be more of a momentary experience. It’s fleeting, which is why a luxurious purchase will suffice for a little while until the hollowness returns. Fulfillment seems to be a more accurate word to describe what it is we are all after because it suggests the notion of permanence; that you will continue to feel it months down the line even if you don’t have as much money as you wish you did.
For today’s post I wanted to discuss a few techniques that help me attain just a bit more happiness when I’m feeling down or hopeless. It’s not about being the happiest person you know or never experiencing sadness, but rather about recognizing what it is that makes the day a bit brighter for you. Not everyone is the same, so you can’t look to others for a blueprint to your own happiness, but I think there are a few universal methods to boost your fulfillment and keep you pushing through the tough times.
I think we all forget to take a second in the morning or at night before bed to just let ourselves breathe. In and out. A simple process that seems to be neglected by those of us who are the most stressed or who feel like the sky is constantly falling. I fall into this category—always feeling a sense of dread even when everything in my life is going fine. However, I’ve realized that whenever I do take a moment to breathe deeply and exhale all the anxieties that are flooding my mind, not letting me sleep or enjoy otherwise happy moments, I feel myself shifting back into the person I want to be. No longer a nervous wreck, but someone who understands that not everything will be peachy all the time, but can take it in stride.
Voice Your Gratitude
Too often do I forget that I am very lucky to have my health, a supportive family, a respectful partner, and a good education. Many people cannot say the same and yet I still find ways to get lost in self-pity rather than voicing my gratitude. And by ‘voicing’ I don’t necessarily mean saying it out loud or to others, but even writing it in a journal or letting your mind run through a checklist of the things you are grateful for rather than the things that are going wrong and you wish you could change. It’s amazing how quickly your mood will shift once you force yourself to take the opposing point of view than the one you are used to. I notice that my shoulders tend to relax a bit and all of a sudden the sky seems bluer and the trees greener. Give it a try the next time something hasn’t gone the way you needed it to and embrace any sort of peace it gives you, even if it’s only momentary.
I’ve mentioned it many times before on this blog, but working out is such a game changer when it comes to mental health and overall body image. I never feel better and more put together as a person than when I am exercising regularly and with a goal in mind. I usually try to run for a certain amount of time at least three days a week and notice the improvements that come along with working muscles that wouldn’t get worked otherwise or feeling that runner’s high half way through my workout. Your exercise doesn’t have to be high intensity if that isn’t what helps your mental health—it could be gentle yoga or a brisk walk around the neighbourhood. It’s about finding what works for you and hits all the right buttons to get you feeling the best you can without unhealthy stimuli giving you fleeting happiness.
Do What You Love
This is an obvious point, but it bears repeating—doing what you love makes you feel better. Now, of course, not everyone is fortunate enough to make their passion a job, but that doesn’t have to be the end goal. Doing what you love can be writing in your spare time to satisfy your creativity or cooking for your family and friends instead of as a chef at a restaurant. Our passions drive us and will always call to us even if we are doing something else as a primary way of making money and paying the bills. Whatever that calling is, let yourself indulge in it so that your life is well-rounded and balanced. Writing is my calling and no matter what the situation is or how awful I may be feeling that day, I always feel better when I put my energy toward blogging, or working on my book, or even just writing in my journal.
Recognize Your Intentions
So, this technique is pretty tricky because most of us have developed various coping mechanisms to deal with the harshness of life that hide our true intentions from us until it’s too late. Your true intentions in life should be aligned with your highest esteem self—the ultimate version of who you want to be and present to the world. Sometimes our judgment and direction can be clouded by others in our lives, such as parents who believe that the only goal should be a high salary or having children. Striving for intentions that are not our own can leave us feeling very empty and unhappy at the end of the day, so it’s important to figure out a way to uncover what your true intentions are. I did this through therapy because I found the guidance to work the best for me and my coping mechanisms, but it’s different for everyone. Recognize who it is you want to be in life and work toward creating that version of yourself so that who you are on the inside aligns with who you show the world. There’s no better way to find fulfillment than being blatantly honest and comfortable with the person you are becoming.