I was unhappy. I spent a lot of the last several years unhappy and didn’t even realize it.
I often blamed my unhappiness on my health. I often avoided life because of my unhappiness and I’m sure that my unhappiness seeped into my relationships with others, causing some to avoid me.
Even though I tried to be happy. I tried to focus on the positive, to smile more, to distract myself from the negatives of life.
The problem is that I wasn’t owning my unhappiness. I was avoiding it. Consequently, I didn’t realize just how unhappy I was until it was time to make a change. There’s no easy answer for happiness… there’s no app, no magic bullet.
Last March I sat in an airport on my way out to San Diego. A few days earlier I’d started reading the book There’s No App for Happiness. It was one of those Kindle books I’d picked up on a daily deal, and given all the focus I’d put towards positive living it seemed like it would be a good read.
I had no idea, how much just the first few chapters would change my life.
To be honest, I’ve still not finished reading this book. Early in the book you spend some time answering several questions. You are supposed to spend just 10 minutes free writing your thoughts on some very specific questions like, “How do I define happiness?”, “What was the happiest period of my life?”, “If I died right now what would I most regret NOT doing or saying?”.
These questions really made me think about my life and forced me to realize that I wasn’t really happy and that I needed to do something about it… and that I COULD do something about it.
I began to think about what I wanted in life, and what was stopping me from having what would make me happy.
I realized that I spent an inordinate amount of time waiting for time to go by, or avoiding life. I spent way too much time in front of a TV, not having valuable conversations with those around me.
I realized that I honestly didn’t respect myself. This last bit came largely because I was too often making decisions based on what others would think, rather than on what would be best for me. That had to change.
There’s no instant solution for happiness. As the book title says, there’s no app for it either. It seems there’s an app for everything these days. There are even a few apps that promise to help you be happier, by focusing on positive things.
I’ve tried them. Focusing on the positive, being more grateful, it’s all great. But, it takes more than that to be happy.
Related: Are you happy for just complacent?
My life has changed a lot since March. It’s been a very eventful year. But, for the first time in quite a few years I’m not looking back at this year thinking about illness, or even negative things that occurred.
It was an eventful year but a good year. It’s a year that I’m leaving happier than I began it.
So,why is that? What’s changed? I’ve changed.
I’ve stopped waiting for things to change around me and started changing things –
If you want to be somebody else,
If you’re tired of fighting battles with yourself
If you want to be somebody else
Change your mind – Sister Hazel
We can wait forever for things to change, or we can take action.
I took some drastic actions, but first I had to realize what needed to change. I wasn’t happy in my life, or in my marriage.
I chose to move on, to be somebody else (but that somebody else was really just me, who I hadn’t been in a while).
It’s nice to be me again. But, it’s also hard because it’s been so long since I’ve really been me. I had to remember who I was.
I had to really think about the choices I make and which ones I was making for me, vs to make others happy. I had to think about what things I really enjoy doing and want to do, rather than just doing the thing that others want to do.
These days I can do that. If I don’t want to do something, I just don’t do it. If I want to do something, I can do it.
I’m learning to respect myself and my choices
This is an on-going process.
It’s difficult to respect yourself when you question every choice you make (or someone else questions it for you). I’m learning to not question my choices, to trust my gut again, and to know that my intuition is more often than not correct.
These are things that I started looking at early in the year during the Mindfulness Based Stress Relief course that I took. As a huge part of that course is in learning to listen to yourself and to what you need, learning to get out of your head and into… well.. your heart (the emotional center).
I still struggle with it. I often question whether I’m good enough, whether I’ve made the right choices, and too often what others will think of me. But, I’m learning to recenter and to listen to my intuition.
I’ve let go of old grudges
I used to be terrible about holding grudges. I’d also let small things really get to me.
A single negative comment from a stranger online would tear me up for days. And, if I’d cut someone out of my life I’d avoid people I loved so that I could avoid that one person. I basically made myself suffer.
I can’t answer the why… but I did make a choice several years ago to let go of the grudges as they just aren’t useful. They hurt me more than anyone else.
These days I choose love. Even if it’s a person I may want to avoid, I can still show them love. I don’t have to go out of my way to engage them, I don’t have to engage them all, but I also don’t have to avoid them, or send them hate or disregard.
I’m changing my routines
My life was in a rut. I did the same things day in and day out and I spent way too much of my life waiting for my life to pass.
I often spent the days working and the evenings watching TV. I’d do the same activities every single weekend, just waiting for Monday to get here again so that I could have my days to myself… only to spend the week wishing the weekend would get here so I could have time off.
I watched so much TV and I was so bored. A few hours of TV would be followed by a bath where I’d read for 30-45 minutes, then I’d climb in bed and read some more until I fell asleep. I spent so much time avoiding life. I wanted to do other things but often didn’t feel that I could do them out of fear of how someone else would feel about my choice.
My routines have completely changed of late. I have control of my life. I spend very little time watching TV. Instead of 3 hours a night, it’s now more like 3 hours a week. I still read a good bit, but I’m reading a lot less.
I’m interacting more, going out more, doing more, playing games with friends, spending quality time with family. I’m doing things that actively make me happy, rather than things that allow me to avoid being miserable.
Related: 5 habits to help me move forward
I’ve stopped letting my fears control me
If I’m honest I probably stayed in my marriage longer than I should out of fear. Fear that I couldn’t function on my own.
After Fibromyalgia hit and I spent years on the couch relying on others, I didn’t have the confidence that I could function on my own.
For the last several years I’ve tried to face my fears, whatever they may have been; whether it was going zip-lining or starting a new business. But, there were other fears I didn’t even acknowledge.
As I sit here now I’m afraid of what is to come. I don’t know what next year will bring. I need a new income source and I don’t know what that will be. I’m considering a job and that scares me because I don’t know if I can physically handle a job working on someone else’s schedule.
What I do know is that I can’t let that fear control me. Either I’ll be able to do it or I won’t. I may not even have to as there are other options. Those options scare me too (largely because I still lack a lot of the self-respect and self-confidence that I should have).
What I do know is that it will be OK in the end, because it always is. Things work out the way they are supposed to. I’ll be OK.
Related: Turning fear into gratitude
There’s no app for happiness, but there are steps to happiness, and happiness is within my control.
The choices I make are what determines my happiness. I can’t blame others for my happiness or lack thereof, because it’s always within my control.
Every choice I make is made by me, no matter how much I feel that others have a say in it. If I make a choice based on how I fear others will react, I’m still making that choice, it’s still on me. It’s up to me to make choices based on the outcome that I want. It may seem selfish but it’s just self-care.