Eyes need a break from the screen?
Listen instead. Press play!
My approach to happiness is a lot like cooking - and come to think of it, I'm a lot better at cooking up happiness than anything else I've tried. I know that there are several key ingredients that I need to whip some 'happy' into my life. When I get the recipe right, I feel great. When one of the ingredients is missing, I feel myself start to slip.
I'm not shy about the mental health struggles I've had in the past. I've shared plenty of times on this blog that for a long time - the first 20 years of my life to be exact - just 'being happy' was something that felt really hard for me.
I should probably clarify that when I talk about happiness in this post I don't mean the over the top kind where you're smiling ear-to-ear and super jazzed on life. That kind of joy is the absolute best when it feels natural but I don't think it's realistic to expect that all the time. I'm talking about the peace of feeling content with whatever life looks like right now - even as it unfolds around you and things inevitably don't go as planned.
Now back to the first 20 years of my life. At the time, I didn't understand why happiness always seemed out of reach. In hindsight, it's easy to pinpoint three things that were at the root of my suffering. Depression was number one. Anxiety, number two. There's no doubt that mental health issues have the power to sabotage happiness but that's not what this post is about. I'm talking about the times when my anxiety was under control, depression didn't have a hold on me and yet for some reason, I still felt a little 'meh' about life. So what was the third thing?
I had no idea what actually made ME happy.
Truth be told, I’d never really taken the time to think about it until my mental health forced me to. I would just take a look around at what other people were doing and follow along. If most university students were happy being out until 4am, eating late night pizza, sleeping through class and skipping the gym - then I would be too, right?
Wrong - I learned that the hard way. The time I spent neglecting what I actually wanted and needed caught up to me. I found myself depressed, anxious, completely lost and was finally forced to ask myself a crucial question.
What makes me happy?
We're all forced to ask this at least once (but probably several times) in our lives. It only really comes into the picture if we've somewhat lost our way and we're forced to reflect on whether the way we've been spending our time is actually fulfilling. Everyone's different - I'm pretty sure that's been drilled into all of us since we were kids. We all know that cheesy little quote 'be yourself, everyone else is taken' - side-note, I actually love that quote. If this is true - which it is - how can we possibly expect anyones approach to happiness to be the same? What works for me isn't going to work for you and what works for you isn't going to work for them.
Maybe you're realizing that you've been living your life just following the pack - thinking that your desires are the same as everyone else out there? Or you've based your happiness off of what other people have always wanted for you? Or you always knew what you wanted but when you ultimately got there, you didn't feel the way you thought you would? Maybe you're realizing that even though you’ve ticked all the boxes, you’re just not as happy as you thought you'd be?
Well that's a bit scary, yes. But at the same time, it's a pretty exciting realization. I'll let you in on a little secret - the best things always are a bit of both. When you finally realize that things aren't working, you have the power to change them.
You can start living life your way.
And I know that I just made that sound really dramatic, like you have to quit your job and become a yoga teacher or something, but you don't (unless that's what makes you happy). These little ingredients that create your happiness recipe can be such small changes.
Let's go back to 20 year old me. The lifestyle that makes so many university students reflect back on the 'best days of their lives' was exactly what sent my mental health on it's biggest downward spiral. I had to stop living what I thought was the 'fun' university life and start living MY university life.
Less after parties.
I now know that I'm happiest when I'm up feeling fresh first thing in the morning. When I get to sip and savour my morning coffee. When I move my body every day and feel good while doing that. When I teach and share yoga. When I get to create and write and connect with people. When I get to spend some quiet downtime with Mike and my family. When I sit around and catch up on life with my sisters and my best friends. When I'm in small, intimate groups and not massive, crowded ones. And of course sometimes, when I have too many glasses of wine, sing my heart out and dance the night away.
It's not hard to see that what makes me happy would bore the hell out of most people.
That's why we have to check ourselves and whether we're staying true to our unique recipe for happiness. Are all the ingredients there? Do you even know what the ingredients are? Take a moment to reflect on what you do in your free time. Is that filling you up or depleting you.
It's such a simple question...
WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY?
If you're doing those things, carry on.
If you're not, why?
It's time to start living YOUR happiest life.