This may seem like an easy choice for many, but there are thousands of people (if not more) out there who wake up on a daily basis and struggle with sadness. Clinical depression can be debilitating, and even the simplest tasks can feel impossible when one reaches that kind of despair. There are times where serious therapeutic or medical intervention can be necessary. However, if we step back and take a broader look at our lives, the choice to be happy can actually become very doable.
I have a hit a few points in my life where I felt like I was drowning in drama and misery. I’m sure I’m not the only one who stayed in a suffocating relationship for longer than they should. I was with an ex-boyfriend for 5 years, despite knowing after about a year and a half into it that we were going nowhere. I spent many nights crying myself to sleep, engaging in pointless and hurtful arguments and trying to change myself (and him) into some semblance of a relationship that I could tolerate. Looking back now, I kick myself because the idea of staying in this torture for so long seems unbelievably pointless and completely unfair to both of us.
But what I had to realize was that there were factors in my life keeping me stuck that I had total control of. The choices I made on a daily basis, both internally and in regards to the world around me, contributed to my choice to stay stuck and very unhappy. While the following tips do not cover every avenue for pursuing your own personal happiness, let them be a starting place if you know in your heart that you are ready to choose happy.
1) Get to know yourself and who are you. What are your values? What are you goals in life? What do you like about yourself? What do you dislike? Without a clear sense of who we are, it can become very easy to define ourselves by those around us. We can be easily influenced by other’s ideals and wind up in relationships that can be emotionally draining or not the least bit supportive for you. You also open yourself up to attracting those who find it easy to take advantage of others, leading to bitter and resentful relationships, including your relationship with yourself.
2) How do you spend your time, and with who? Anyone in addictions recovery knows that boredom is a dangerous space to be in. When we have a lot of time on our hands, it can be very easy to ruminate about regrets we have, obsess over so-and-so’s Facebook post or find any little activity to fill our time, even if it serves us no good. Equally so, spending time with those who do not align with your life’s purpose or values (see step 1) can lead you to making choices you may ultimately not be ok with. I remember a point where I was hanging out with a group of friends who liked to party. I often left time spent with them feeling guilty about poor choices I made or really just not liking myself very much. When I made the choice to cut ties and find more positive people to surround myself with, it was mind-blowing how much more positive my outlook became!
3) What burdens are you carrying that you can let go of? No one goes through this life without regrets. It may sound counter-intuitive, but sometimes holding on to the past can be comforting. It’s what we know. Releasing our past can mean a very scary step into our future… the unknown. But this fear can weigh you down to the point of becoming stuck in your unhappiness. Change does not happen without a catalyst, and sometimes our mistakes and regrets can be just that. But you must choose to see it this way. Take your mistakes and choose to see the beauty and opportunity for growth. Figure out what purpose staying unhappy is serving you, and make the conscious effort to let it go.
4) Be kind to yourself. Do you say thank you when a stranger holds the door for you? Do you congratulate a co-worker for the great job they did? Do you reward your children for completing their chores? How often do you do any of these things for yourself? When is the last time you gave yourself credit, or even a simple compliment? Most of our inner voices tend to point out our negatives, or find flaws in even the most insignificant tasks. We bully ourselves into believing we are worthless or can’t do anything right. If you are like me, I would never allow bullying to take place to another; however I am my biggest critic. Defend yourself! Don’t allow yourself to speak to you in a way that you would never speak to others. If you are not sure how to start, this is where being around kind people comes in handy. Check in with them, what good things do they see in you? Write their responses down and keep them on your mirror where you can see it daily. When we learn to be kind to ourselves, we begin healing that allows us to move forward.
When we frame happiness as a choice, it moves us from experiencing life as a bystander and putting us in charge of our emotions. We all have the ability to do so. Some of us find this through therapy or mindfulness meditation, others through life experience. You can start by challenging your thoughts and beliefs, or maybe it’s getting out there and trying something different.
Whatever your path, if you wake each day committing to make the choice of happiness, you’ve already won half the battle.
What are some ways you lift your mood when you feel down?
What changes have you made to release negativity and increase happiness?
Think you may be clinically depressed? Click here.